Author Archives: Veronika Sophia Robinson

 

Understanding ourselves (and our loved ones) through the lens of our astrological birth chart, and transits, allows us to live intentionally, and to create a deeply meaningful and conscious way of living, moving and being in this world.

For a limited time, I’m offering a 2-for-1 on my astrology readings. Give one to a friend, or use it for a family member or even keep it for yourself for a follow-up session down the track. Sessions are by Skype (worldwide), or in my home in the Eden Valley, Cumbria. http://www.veronikarobinson.com/astrologer to book. There’s no expiry limit on when the sessions can be taken. Testimonials are available on my website.

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Long gone are the days when you ‘had’ to get married before you had a baby. Shot gun weddings were designed to cover up ‘mistakes’. Such silly rules humans make for themselves.

 

Yesterday a friend shared his wonderful engagement news. It made my husband and I so happy. That he has two sons from this loving relationship already, simply added to our joy. It also reminded me of my own wedding two decades ago. I was a breastfeeding bride, with a bonny 10-month-old baby girl. She accompanied her father and I as we walked up the aisle together of that wee chapel the day after my 29th birthday.

Although we have it in our cultural mind that the wedding day is about the bride and groom, for many couples tied in with their plans for married life is the hope, the promise, the dream of having a family. Could it be that their unborn children are already there, with them, energetically moving them forward to the time when they’ll arrive Earthside?

For those couples who arrive at their wedding day already with a child or children, these living, moving, breathing beings are a testament to the power of love, creation and joy. There’s such a beautiful power and depth that already having a family brings to a wedding day.

 

Having a child or children at a wedding expands the sense of love that is present. And this is true whether the child is our own or will become our ‘step’ child. Love is love is love.

Just as children are both witnesses and participants to our love as a couple, so too can they be both of these things at our wedding ceremony. There are countless beautiful ways to have children actively involved that go beyond carrying the rings or flowers.

It was your love that brought your child into this beautiful world, and it is love that brings you to your wedding day. The simple truth is: you can’t have too much love!

Veronika Robinson is an independent celebrant living in rural Cumbria. She’s been officiating ceremonies since 1995 (when she felt the first fluttery kicks of her baby daughter growing steadily inside her). Veronika creates, writes and officiates blessingways, naming, weddings, handfastings, funerals and memorials. www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant

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You’re planning your wedding day.

Dress. Check.
Venue. Check.
Florist. Check.
Caterer. Check.
Invitations. Check.
Entertainment. Check.
Photographer/Videographer. Check.
Wedding planner. Check.
Rings. Check.

So much to do, right? But have you given any thought to your actual ceremony? Are you aware of the choices you have available to you in the UK? There are alternatives to having a church wedding or a registrar-led service. You can opt, instead, to do a ‘registration only’ at your local register office (no need for rings or vows), and then have the ceremony of your dreams with a chosen celebrant anywhere and at any time. You are not restricted if you choose a celebrant to create your wedding ceremony, and most importantly of all it will be written especially for you. A registrar does not write wedding ceremonies. To perform their ‘service’, they use a government-supplied script as a one-size-fits-all for all their marriages. Where’s the romance in that?

 

 

As an independent celebrant who creates personalised ceremonies especially for each couple, my job is to create beautiful experiences that you will long cherish. This means I take the time to get to know you (which can be in person or by Skype, depending on where you live), and learn about your love story. I visit the chosen venue to go through a rehearsal with you, too. A registrar doesn’t do these things.

 

 

So, for the same amount as you’d pay for a registrar to come to a hotel or other registered venue, you can have a unique and 100% personalised ceremony that will never be repeated. YOU choose the mood and feel of your ceremony, by your song/music choices, venue, readings, symbols/rituals, and together we work to create a ceremony that is all about you as a couple.

 

 

Ask any wedding planner in a registered hotel/venue what a registrar-led service is like, and if they’re honest, they’ll tell you this: they can repeat the script word for word because they’re all the same. So, is that really what you want for your wedding day? Whether you’re on a low-budget wedding or spending thousands, surely the ceremony (the heart of your wedding day) should reflect your love, your values and your hopes.

 

To me, personally and professionally, what makes a ceremony beautiful is when the authenticity of the couple’s love is given the space, word medicine and ritual to be openly expressed in front of their gathered friends and family. They have the freedom to be wholly themselves, and there is no restriction on this whether that is due to time, venue, script, symbolism or other. A beautiful wedding ceremony allows each person present to fully feel themselves standing in the shoes (or barefoot if in a meadow or on a beach!) of the bride and groom. It’s when the bride and groom feel safe to intimately share their deepest feelings about their loved one. They are held, energetically, within the love of their nearest and dearest, as they say their vows, take their rings or have their hands bound.

When all these things come together, that is when you will hear guests say: that was so beautiful.

 

Veronika Robinson is an independent celebrant in Cumbria. She loves officiating weddings, and remembers each one she officiates. Veronika has been officiating weddings and handfastings since 1995 when she lived in New Zealand. You can contact her at Ceremonies from the Heart www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant #Cumbria #weddings #weddingsincumbra #cumbrianweddings

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Have you ever wondered where the expression “to tie the knot” comes from? It has its origins in the ancient Celtic ritual of handfasting.

“Marian and Dave’s handfasting in Cumbria”

 

 

As an independent celebrant, more and more of my clients wish to include handfasting as part of their ceremony rituals. It’s a beautiful yet simple symbolism and is as old as the first couple who ever ‘tied the knot’, and as recent as the one I’m officiating. It symbolises marriage vows, and can be done instead of, or as well as, the exchange of wedding rings.

 

 

“My celebrant basket with handfasting cord, candles, bells, Celtic love knot, feathers, moss, water, ceremony script”

 

 

Handfasting represents the commitment of an intimate partnership.
From Old Norse: hand-festa, which means to strike a bargain by joining hands. The notion of a handshake comes from the old tradition of hand fasting; and even today, let’s shake on it, can represent a vow of sorts.

When I bind a couple’s hands together, I remind them their lives and spirits are held by the symbol of a knot.

 

 

They may choose to make the cord themselves, or with the help of family and friends, or if they prefer, I can make it for them from their favourite colours or in colours to match the theme of the wedding. Because the cord is as unique as the couple it can be made from pretty much anything. It can be from the most luxurious of ribbons or from farmer’s baling twine. Whatever it’s made from, it is the intent that’s important. Regardless of what it’s made from, it contains all the hopes and wishes of the friends and family who have gathered to witness the marriage.

 

“Sara and Michael tying the knot”

 

Some couples choose to have the knot in place just for the ceremony, while others like to keep the knot in the cord permanently and simply slip their hands out of it near the end of the ceremony.

 

“Officiating Dave and Marian’s beautiful wedding ceremony in a meadow by a babbling brook” #Cumbrianweddings

 

Either way, I finish with the words: “May this knot remain tied for as long as love shall last.”
Some couples like to have this traditional handfasting prayer included in their ceremony. It’s called The Hands of the Couple.

“Above you are stars, and below you is earth. Like stars, your love should be a constant source of light, and like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow.

May these hands be blessed this day.
May this cord draw your hands together in love, never to be used in anger.

May the vows you have spoken never grow bitter in your mouths.

May they build a relationship founded in love, and rich in caring. May these hands be healer, protector, shelter, and guide for each other”.

Veronika Robinson is an independent celebrant who is available to officiate wedding ceremonies throughout Cumbria. She adores watching couples come together before friends and family to declare their love, and has been officiating ceremonies since 1995. www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant 

 

“Michael and Sara flew from Australia to Cumbria for their destination wedding which I had the honour of officiating.”

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Recently, someone I’ve known for about fifteen years said to me: “You don’t take risks, do you?” I was absolutely gob smacked. It really threw me for a while for two reasons. One was that it made me realise she didn’t know me at all, and the other was that my life has been nothing but a succession of risk taking.

It would be easy to look at my current life: all cosied up in a cottage I love, and spending my days doing work I enjoy, not too mention enjoying a honeymoon with my husband now that we’ve no children living at home. I have handcrafted my life to be one of daily pleasures. Maybe it looks, to the untrained eye, as if I live in a bubble immune from the pain of the world.

 

 

 

When I started counting off the risks I’ve taken in my life I came to the conclusion that, despite appearances, I am still a fab risk taker.

What does it mean when we talk about taking a risk? To my mind, it means doing something that has a potential for failure. It may mean that we’re stepping into the unknown. But it also means we’re doing something that takes us way beyond our comfort zone.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a risk taker. Growing up on 700 acres in rural Queensland, Australia, much of my childhood was spent barefoot. Each time I stepped out the door, I was at risk of something biting or stinging me. My mother had made the ‘best cubby house ever’ from an old dunny (outdoor loo), and decorated it into a little shop for me. It was so beautiful. The downside was that to get there I had to trek through some land where snakes loved to slither. Each time I headed to play, I sent a silent prayer up to the Gods: if you love me, please don’t let me see a snake.

Every time I went on one of our dozens of horses, I was at risk. And in those days, we simply didn’t wear riding hats. And half the time we didn’t bother with a saddle, and sometimes we even skipped using a bridle or halter and would simply use our whole body to guide the horse. One time I came off a horse, and I landed bang on my coccyx. I was about ten. It hurt like hell, but somehow my body adapted to the dislocation (don’t ask me why it was never treated!). I had no idea that injury would end up (after dislocating it twice in childbirth) leading to about twenty years of excruciating back pain as an adult. Risk, yes. I had a childhood full of it. And that’s not even counting in the many trees I climbed that I couldn’t get back down. I always managed to get down but my lanky little body often took hours to work out how to do it.

Each time I jumped over our waterfall into the dam I took a risk.

My childhood ‘play’ was about as risky as it is possible for childhood to be. We’d do crazy things like put on a parka and raincoat and float down a creek when it was in flood. We’d turn a corrugated iron rainwater tank on its side and using pedal power run inside of it to make it roll down a road. Ask my sister Heidi about risk. She’s got a fab scar on her cheek to prove it. We’d often toboggan down our hill on cardboard. Not so fast as corrugated iron! And fast soon becomes ‘no go’ when it hits a eucalyptus tree. I can recount dozens of risky acts in childhood.

Around the age of ten, I took off from an interschool sports day (I hate sports) with a bunch of lads and we headed towards the river for a swim. On the way, they got talking with a truck driver who’d broken down. Me, being the little conversationalist that I am, got talking with him too. The boys finished their conversation about mechanical stuff and left. I stayed talking with my new friend for hours. We talked about all the things that interested me, like angels, reincarnation, auras, and so on. We swapped addresses. Now, if your ten year old daughter stopped and talked to a truck driver for hours (not to mention playing truant from school), you might be freaking out. It was a risk. My friendship with Bluey lasted well into my adult life until he passed away. We’d spent many years as pen friends, and he even came to visit my parents to assure them there was nothing ‘dodgy’ going on. From my part, if felt such a relief to have a friend, besides my mum, with whom I could share my strong spiritual beliefs.

At the age of sixteen I caught a Greyhound bus and moved 2000km away from my family home. I had $100 in my purse, and nothing but my mother’s good wishes. She said she understood my need for freedom.

At the age of nineteen, I was pregnant. Didn’t expect that! However, after my boyfriend insisted I have an abortion (so I didn’t ruin his life as a ‘perfect Lutheran son’) I decided I’d be a single mother. Gulp. It was one thing looking after myself, but oh my goddess, being responsible for raising another human being? I pulled my socks up, and told him ‘no’. Mother Nature had other plans. The foetus shrivelled up, and I required a D&C. I can tell you right now that going under anaesthetic is always a huge risk! It was not something I ever intended doing in my life again (I’d have four more operations during those early adult years). When I emerged from anaesthesia, I was crying. The surgeon snapped at me and said “What are you crying for, the baby was dead anyway!” Oh to go back in time and slap his stupid little face.

Three years later, I was pregnant again. Truth be told, I thought I might just miscarry again, so ignored my tummy getting bigger and bigger. Eventually I went to the doctor who discovered that my ‘baby’ had in fact become a hydatidifoid mole (essentially turned into a large bunch of grapes = tumour). He said that if I’d left it another month, I’d have been dead. Back under anaesthetic! RISK. Tumour removed, and the next year was spent having weekly blood tests and chest x-rays to ensure I didn’t end up with cancer in my lungs. By this time I was living back in Queensland where I’d gotten a job as a phlebotomist (someone who takes your blood) at the local hospital. I ended up taking my own blood each week! Given I dislike pain, and cringe at anything to do with needles, that I managed to do this to myself each week was pretty risky!

What I haven’t yet mentioned is that I’d had a childhood of being sexually abused. Every time any man (other than my dad who was about the only man who didn’t do that to me) came near me, I was filled with fear. Would he do those things to me? When you’ve been sexually abused, your aura has holes in it so you somehow keep attracting paedophiles.

When I was working in the hospital lab, my boss was a fun guy. We dated for a bit, and then he moved overseas. The new boss (who I found physically repulsive and creepy from the outset) had heard about our relationship and clearly thought he could step into A’s shoes in more ways that one. I felt ill, and made it absolutely crystal clear that I was not interested (and not just because the idiot was married).

He persisted, and I kept declining. The work situation was intense. I went and saw the hospital counsellor. I was becoming ill with stress. In one of our conversations, she asked me what job I’d do if I could just make it happen. I told her I’d love to be a writer. She immediately asked me if I’d been to the local paper to see about working there.

Well, little risk taker Veronika took herself down to the editor and put her heart on the table. “I want to be a journalist.” To his credit, Neil didn’t laugh at me. Instead, he asked if I’d be willing to come in each evening after work and volunteer. Hell yes!

So, I started that night. My job was to phone the emergency services (fire, ambulance and police) and see if there were any stories. At the end of that week, Neil came up to me and said he had no journalists rostered on for the weekend, and ask if I was free to write and photograph stories. Oh my god yes! Now, if I was averse to risk taking I’d have said ‘no’. I’d be too paralysed with fear of doing it wrong. After all, I had NO experience. He showed me how to load the camera (no digital cameras in those days!). Guess who had a front-page story on Monday morning?

Several times over the next few months my editor would say to me “How did you get that photo?” I could see the colour disappear from his face when I’d described either climbing to the top of a derelict building or crane or going out on a lake in a speedboat. “Veronika, my insurance doesn’t cover you doing this like that. Stay on dry land.” I’d become a professional risk taker and had no idea that I was doing stuff others deemed dangerous.

In the meantime, the situation at my hospital job was getting worse. The hospital manager called me in and said my boss in the lab was complaining that my work was shoddy. I broke down and told him the truth: my work was absolutely fine, the issue was that he was sexually harassing me and that I wasn’t interested. The hospital manager was a genuinely lovely man, but he felt his hands were tied. He told me I’d have to go: that it was, in his exact words, easier to hire a new phlebotomist than a scientist.

After a lifetime of having had men walk all over me (in one form or another), something in me shifted that day. The injustice of going through life being treated like “I” didn’t matter was going to end.

I took my case to the Ombudsman. As it turned out, there was no law (at the time) to protect staff in Queensland hospitals from such harassment. Guess what? There is now! Yes, I took a risk. Every time you speak up, and every time you say something is NOT okay, you take a risk.

Somewhere around this time I had started to write more poetry. Before long, I had a small collection which I self-published (HUGE RISK). There was no such thing as social media back then.

 

 

Publishing my own work meant traipsing up and down the city and selling my books to bookshops and newspaper shops. It also meant checking in all the time to see if they were selling, and suggesting better places for them to position my books (oh if only I had that sense of self these days ~ it would make marketing my books so much easier). My poems were deeply personal and autobiographical. If publishing that isn’t risk taking, then I don’t know what is.

 

My work at the newspaper gave me a foot in the world of media, and I shall always be thankful. Before long, I took another risk. I decided to move to New Zealand. I wrote to my old friend, Bluey (who now lived in a cave!), and asked if he’d meet me at the airport.

I stepped off the plane in Auckland. No Bluey. Crap. Next-to-no money on me. Crap. One of the ladies I’d been sitting near on the plane saw me and asked if I was okay. I explained my dilemma, and she took me to her house for a couple of days. Phew. In the meantime, Bluey had finally received my letter. He arranged to come and get me.

So there I was in a new country, no income, no job. But within no time I had a roof over my head (not a cave roof), and got work on an orchard cutting wire. Yes. Cutting wire. BORING. I soon got work picking apples, and then work in a Steiner Boarding School. I was dating a lovely, lovely man, J. Lovely, expect for his ex-wife who wasn’t at all happy that I was on the scene. She made my life hell. Imagine waking up at 3am to see your lover’s ex-wife standing over you. FFS. It was like something out of the movies. To say I was at risk of a nervous breakdown was a bit of an understatement. For my own health and well-being I knew it was time to move on, even though it was going to break my heart. It was at this time I learnt the danger of being in a co-dependent relationship: it’s one where you think if you love hard enough you’ll be able to change the other person. The thing is he simply didn’t have what it takes to put up a boundary and tell his ex that she needed to stay away.

I packed my bags and moved to Tasmania, that gorgeous little island at the bottom of Australia. I managed to pass my time creatively by writing book reviews for the newspaper in Launceston. My heart was aching and I really wanted to see J again. In an act of who-knows-what, I changed my middle and surname by deed poll. My surname was now the same as J’s. (It still makes me laugh. I’d written to tell him and he had opened it during a business meeting and nearly fell off his chair!) After two months, I returned to him only to find (cue: tears) his bloody ex had moved all her stuff into his house.

Air fares aren’t cheap. I could hardly go back to Tassie. What to do? Bluey was heading up the country to Auckland. I asked if I could hitch a ride. About half way up country, we stopped so I could buy the New Zealand Herald. I immediately looked for rooms to rent. As soon as we hit the city, I found a phone box and called. I arranged to go straight there and look at the room. Perfect, I said. I waved Bluey off and knew I had to find a job asap.

One of the things my mother had taught me early on was that sometimes you have to ‘jump off the cliff’ (aka take risks!) and to trust the angels will catch you. Truth be told, I have lived my whole life this way.

The Universe had my back. I quickly secured a job with the New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as their media officer. My primary role was to write a book on the society’s history for their upcoming Diamond Jubilee celebrations. I was already vegetarian, so the care of animals came naturally to me. However, working within that field and seeing the horrendous cruelty that goes on, not just domestically, but within the animal-food industry, absolutely crushed me. I couldn’t bear it. Soon it was no longer enough just to be writing a book. I needed to take action. I was horrified in learning about the plight of hens kept in battery cages, and I headed to war. I was going to put an end to this. With my journalist hat on, I immediately started writing articles left, right and centre about where people’s eggs come from. It’s an uncomfortable subject. People don’t want to know they’re involved in animal cruelty and would rather turn a blind eye and just pay other people to do it for them. Things heated up, and my boss (bless him!) called me into his office. He was shaking in his boots. Five top men from the Egg Board had come. They wanted me sacked. They wanted to sue me. I was causing damage to their industry. If I look back over my whole life, this moment was one that will forever remain a highlight: I felt so powerful. Five old men trying to lord it over me. My response was this: I haven’t written a single word that isn’t true.

Those jumped-up men knew that. They knew they didn’t have a leg to stand on. I will forever be proud of my role in launching the Ban the Battery Cage campaign.

During this one-year contract with the NZRSPCA, I was tasked with taking a VIP (the head of Eurogroup for Animal Welfare) around the country as part of our Diamond Jubilee celebrations, culminating in a conference where he was keynote speaker. We hit it off the second we saw each other at the airport. Within half an hour of meeting, we were talking about my job coming to an end, and how much I’d love to work for an animal charity group in the UK called Compassion in World Farming. He said he could organise an interview for me. I couldn’t believe it! True to his word, he put in a word for me.

I left NZ on a one-way ticket (once again, with next to no money ~ ah well, that’s what you get for spending a year working for a charity), with no job or accommodation to go to, just an interview. What sort of person takes such risks? Seriously? Am I just an idiot? Maybe. Or maybe I just really believe in myself and the Universe.

Arrived in freezing England (oh my god, who knew a place could be soooo cold?), and David met me at the airport and drove me to the interview after whisking me off to Brussels for a few days to recover from jetlag. I’d applied to be a media officer for CIWF. I was stunned to find a job offer in my hands by the time I’d left the building. One of the people who worked there mentioned a B&B he stayed at nearby, and checked with the landlady to see if I could stay there. I stayed until my first pay check and was then able to get a studio flat. I’d arrived in November, and with Christmas coming up I was aware that I’d not have any friends or family near me. David asked what I was going to do. I jokingly said how much I’d love to see my old friend Amy who lived in Pennsylvania. Bless! He bought me a ticket to visit her for Christmas. I was so happy. One small detail: The flight left a day before the office closed. My new boss wasn’t having it. I had a choice to make. Have the time of my life and see my best friend, or be a ‘good girl’ and obey the rules. You have no idea how much fun I had in the USA! #risktaker One of my favourite memories in this lifetime was spending that New Year’s Eve in an outdoor hot tub with snowflakes drifting down.

 

I arrived back in the UK with no job to return to, and somehow ended up down in Cornwall. I stayed for a few months managing to get a job wrapping flowers for sale in service stations, and staying with people who were kind enough to put me up. I started to miss New Zealand, and felt drawn to go back. Although my work and passion had led me into animal welfare and rights, I’d been having such a strong pull towards becoming a mother. It all happened after I was woken from a dream where a voice told me I’d write “the beautiful birth book”. I had no idea what it meant, but went into the local New Age bookshop the next day. Two books on waterbirth literally fell off the shelf in front of me. I had no idea the turn my life was about to take.

I managed to get a tax refund and used the money to get a ticket back to New Zealand. I arrived home with about ten dollars. Usual story. No job. No home.

Within hours of landing, a friend offered me a job in a jigsaw puzzle factory (to date, one of the most boring jobs of my life, but I am, of course, thankful that it gave me the chance to get on my feet), and I quickly had shelter. Nothing is by chance, of course, but my new landlady attended a place called Unity: it was a metaphysical church/school. She invited me along. I immediately felt at home amongst the New Thought teachings. Before long, I had a job working there, first as office manager, and then teaching personal-growth workshops. It was at this time that I trained to become a wedding celebrant.

One day, a man came walking through the door and I dropped everything. Where the heck did I know him from? All the women around me were divorced, and were as taken with him as I was. But, he was 19 years older than me. He was hardly going to notice someone like me when he had all those available women his own age. Mind you, I’d thought that about J, and he was 21 years older than me.

Oh how this man made me laugh. He was so funny. But it was more than that. He was different to any other man I’d ever met: there was a depth of kindness and sincerity that I’d never experienced before. It felt as if I’d always known him. I invited him for dinner, and we moved in together the next day. Bit of risk, don’t you think? Next month we’ll celebrate 22 wonderful years together. You could say that was one of the biggest risks of my life.

I was pregnant six weeks later. We, in our culture, often talk of the risks of pregnancy and birth and whether a child will be healthy or not, but how often do we consider the risks involved in sharing our life with an unknown person for possible the next eighteen years. We have no idea of whether we’ll gel with the child we’re bringing into this world. It’s a huge risk having a child.

I was absolutely delighted to be pregnant. I did yoga, aquanatal classes, walked regularly, swam with the dolphins, and made plans for my waterbirth at home. Everyone around me said “you’re so brave having a baby at home”. Given my mum had her last three babies at home, unassisted, it didn’t seem like such a big deal. But, to the world, I was taking a huge risk.

Twenty two months after her beautiful birth, we welcome our second daughter. Six months later, when my husband’s work life changed, we decided to move to Australia in the hope he’d pick up work there in his chosen field of voice over and broadcaster. We were given the wrong immigration advice (although he was a NZ resident, he was a British citizen), and arrived in Oz with two babies and Paul not being allowed to work. Holy crap! We’d sold everything to come to Australia. Risk, risk, risk. I had two breastfeeding little ones, and there was no way I was leaving them to go to work. What to do? Well, honestly, we were on the bones of our bum for six months. Somewhere near Christmas time there was a competition on the radio: Sing a Christmas carol and the winner will have $1000 to spend at the local shopping mall. My darling sang as Pavarotti, and won the competition. The mall had a travel agent. I’d suggested that if we came to England (even though I’d vowed I’d never go back to such a cold country) he’d at least be allowed to work. So, plane tickets bought, and me just scraping through in time with Indefinite Leave to Remain, we arrived in the UK. We’d left 38 beautiful degrees Celsius and arrived to minus 12. I cried. We came with two toddlers, a ventriloquist doll, some suitcases…and £10. If anyone ever tells me again that I don’t take risks, I might just…

Paul’s brother kindly took us in, and within a short time Paul managed to get some work. Within three months we moved to the village we’ve lived in now for 18 years.

You’d think that would be enough risk taking for one life time. By 2002, I had the bright idea to start a magazine on natural parenting. For twelve years I published a subscriber-based magazine. Each issue is a risk. It’s a risk financially, because you NEVER have any guarantee if people will continue subscribing but you are obligated to keep publishing. It’s also a huge risk editorially. Or, at least it was for me. I wanted to adhere to a strict ethos which was all about meeting a child’s biological needs. This is not an easy stance to take. It immediately means you RISK alienating readers as well as advertisers. Financially, the first few years were particularly risky. I was starting from nothing. Although I had journalism experience, I certainly didn’t have design experience (as is evidenced from those early issues). Each magazine was put together in my home, in and around busy family life.

A year after starting, I decided to buy some land. RISK!! Having grown up on 700 acres, I needed to get my hands in the soil and have a sense of freedom. It was a financial risk buying the land as I had to take out a loan. Two loans, actually. What I didn’t know at the time was the huge, and life-changing, risk I was about to take to my health. From that point of view, it turned out to be one of the worst risks of my life.

The land had a right of way which involved going through someone else’s land. It never occurred to me that it would prove to be a problem as I had deeds. But what I didn’t see on paper was the biggest a***hole of a farmer, who made it his mission to make my life hell. He had wanted the land, and most certainly didn’t want a woman with young children up there growing flowers and fruit trees. What started as an absolute joy, going there each day with my girls to grow food, became a living nightmare. Just getting to our land became a risk. He’d tip truckloads of turnips on the track so I couldn’t drive down. He’d padlock the gate. He’d cover it in barbed wire. He’d put a ‘dangerous bull’ sign on the gate. In short, he did everything he could to stop me getting to the land. One day he and his wife barricaded me and the girls in our car, his wife in a vehicle on one side, and he in his tractor behind, and then came up banging on the window and effing and blinding at us. Ah well, at least the five page statement my little girl wrote was enough to have the Crown Prosecution Service bind him over.

Long story short, he took us to court on the grounds of ‘trespassing’. I had been following my right of way deed, going directly from his gate to my gate, but he wanted me to go another route, about two metres to the right, on a steep camber that my car couldn’t manage.

If you’ve ever been involved in a court case, you’ll know the toll it takes on your health. While all this was going on, I was publishing my magazine and homeschooling our two girls, and dealing with major back pain from my old horse-falling-off injury. My stress levels were going through the roof.

Court came and we ended up representing ourselves. By this stage I had severe but undiagnosed adrenal fatigue. I could hardly stand up, and would eventually need about three weeks of bed rest.

I took a risk going to court. A huge one. Financially, but most importantly for me, emotionally. I had literally put down roots on that land: planting hundreds of fruit trees, a hundred blueberry bushes, hundreds of raspberry canes. We had goats, a polytunnel, vegetable beds. This place was my children’s playground.

One thing I was clear about: that rotten farmer was NOT getting my land. I sold it to a friend for WAY less than I’d paid for it. Broke my heart, but at another level I felt grateful that it wouldn’t all be ripped out just to have sheep on it. I trusted that she would treasure the land.

The years between 2003 and 2006 were deeply painful, and the risk I took to my health is one of such damage that I am still paying the price with a frustratingly fragile endocrine system.

Also, around the year 2003 I dislocated my shoulder for the first time after slipping on wet paint. I have never known such excruciating pain. I would go on over the years to dislocate that shoulder more than a dozen times, and the other shoulder about half a dozen times. It got to the point my arms were permanently pinned close to my sides. I was scared to reach up or move them in any way. Every physical movement felt like a risk. And don’t even start me on stepping outside when it’s icy. My huge fear is falling over and risking another dislocation. Women who say childbirth is painful have no freaking idea of what pain is if they’ve not had a shoulder dislocation.

Last Summer, I decided to do the Couch to 5K programme, and in eight or so weeks I learnt to run five kilometres without stopping. Sure, I don’t run fast, but who cares? I don’t. What I do know is that every single time I run, every single time I go to the gym or an aquafit or Pilates class, I am taking a massive f****** risk of putting myself in a situation where I might cause a dislocation. I’m also hypermobile.

 

If I wasn’t a risk taker, I wouldn’t leave my home. Hell, I wouldn’t leave my bed. I wouldn’t exercise. I wouldn’t do anything. But I do take risks. Sure, I have the luxury of being in a marriage that is beautiful, easy and harmonious, and living in a home that feels peaceful, but does that mean I don’t take risks? No. The fact I choose to abstain from alcohol and drugs doesn’t mean I’m not a risk taker. What it means is that I am comfortable and confident in my self and my life choices that I don’t need to anaesthetise myself from life’s harsh reality. I can simply be.

I am self-employed. I have been since 2002. Every single work day of my life is a risk. It’s a risk financially and creatively. I never know where the next celebrant client is coming from, or if they’ll come. It’s the same with my astrology clients. And as for my books: each time I put a book out into the world, I risk rejection. I risk people saying “well that was crap!” Being a writer is an incredibly vulnerable career and not for the weak of character. I write for myself, but if I want to earn a living from my words, then I am risking myself every single day.

It’s true: I love my life. I love my family. I love my home. I love my work. But I got to this place through one thing, and one thing alone: risk.

 

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Love. It is essential to human happiness. But where does it come from? How do we grow it in our lives? Why do some people have an abundance of it, while others are deprived?

When I wrote my book, I Create My Day, I chose to include the twelve areas of human experience so that the reader could go about creating a full life based on intention, clarity and desire. Intimate relationships are an important area of human fulfilment. They help us to see ourselves. And they show us where we are ‘asleep’ and where and how we are ‘awake’.

The key to creating more love in your life is to see that it already exists within you. No one can give it to you if you don’t recognise it, and equally, no one can take it away. It is always there, though for many people it is shrouded beneath fear and layers of pain. We are, quite literally, a manifestation of love from the Unlimited Universe. What another human being can do, though, is show you how much love you allow to live within yourself.

To create a love-filled life, it is essential that we can feel what love is because otherwise we will sabotage every relationship we ever walk into. I am so grateful to all the men I’ve loved before because they were stepping stones to a relationship in which I would finally see my full self. What do I mean by that? Every relationship in our life is a mirror. We see our reflection in the face, arms, smile, heartbeat, habits, life views and love of another. When we ‘fall in love’, we are usually falling for an illusion. That is, we ‘hold up high’ what it is we like about the other person. Then reality sets in. Sometimes we don’t like what we see. But, blaming and shaming another is no better than throwing our hairbrush at the mirror because we’re having a bad hair day. It’s not the mirror’s fault! (It’s my dad’s fault for passing on hair with curls in the wrong places! ~ just kidding.) The mirror of relationship shows us who we are. If we don’t like what we see, we can go within and change our behaviour or inner irritant (or we can keep pointing our finger at what we don’t like in that person).

 

We can give thanks for this crash course in personal growth. But does someone’s annoying behaviour mean we have to lose sight of our true nature: to love? If we’re clear that what we’re seeing isn’t something huge within us, and that we’re ‘vibrating’ on an entirely different level, we might choose to walk away. I’m a firm believer in the saying: we become like the five people we hang out with the most. I’m incredibly choosy about who I spend my precious time with! I simply don’t want to spend my days with people who bitch, moan all the time, are unkind or critical.

I choose to be with people who vibrate at a level which seeks to see all that is beautiful, pleasurable and wonderful about this world. A rich and fulfilling life is one whereby we consciously choose what we want more of in our days. I choose love, beauty, abundance, fun, pleasure, creativity and kindness. How about you? What do you choose? What would you like more of?

 

If someone we’re intimate with has an annoying behaviour, we can let it irritate us and we may seethe, or we can speak up kindly and express how we feel by said behaviour, or we can rant, rave and shred that person to pieces. Whatever we do, it’s always a choice. The difficulty with the latter behaviour is that is quickly becomes a habit that destroys the heart and soul of an intimate relationship. To truly be close to someone, you need to feel ‘safe’. I’m not talking about ripping off your clothes and having a ‘shag’. Anyone can do that! By true intimacy, I mean baring your heart. Putting your feelings on the table with a purity and vulnerability that means you TRUST the other. That simply doesn’t happen unless you feel safe, and you’re not going to feel safe if someone is ready to shoot you down. Love allows you to feel safe.

Some people are under the false illusion that because a soulmate is someone you have an intense connection with, that can mean you might be inclined to fight all the time. But you love each other, so it’s ok! Not in my world. A soulmate would never tear their partner in half, or be spiteful, nasty, patronising or disinterested.

It’s often said that marriage is hard work. That has not been my experience in almost 22 years (next month) of living together. There are essentially two states of being: love or fear. A marriage which has two people choosing to love openheartedly and consciously, and choosing to do this every single day, is not hard work, and never will be. One which constantly brings fear-based behaviour is going to be hard labour (with no time off for good behaviour!). But you know, it doesn’t have to be like that. Egos cause more damage than a War Lord’s arsenal. Fear comes about in a relationship because we aren’t feeling the love. Where has it gone? Was it there in the first place? Or was it just lust that brought you together? Love doesn’t ‘die’. How can it? All another person can ever do is show you how much love is within you already. They can, by all means, help you to express that.

 

Love begins and ends with us. The quality, harmony and happiness of our intimate relationships is in direct proportion to our level of self-awareness, self-love, self-care and self-nurture. If we are unable to love and tend to our selves, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, then we have no ‘well’ (or experience) from which to draw on in order to bring such care to another human being.

I often witness people in marriages where they are cruel and destructive (emotional and mental abuse is just as vile and unacceptable as physical abuse/violence), or allow themselves to be treated in this way. We only ever get in life what we tolerate.

Here’s the key: no one has a gun to our head. No one forces us to stay in relationships that don’t bring us to Higher Ground (in this culture, anyway). We choose it. Each day we stay with someone who doesn’t reflect the beauty, love and kindness within us, is a day of our life we’ve thrown away. It’s another day that we say: “It’s okay, I’m not loveable, treat me like shit. It’s okay not to respect me because I don’t respect and value myself.” Quite simply, we get what we put out. What’s in our heart is written on our forehead.

When we love another human being, we ALWAYS want the best for them. We instinctively and lovingly want to raise them up. It wouldn’t occur to us to be unkind or envious of their success or creativity or joy. When we make the choice to share our lives with a significant other, what we’re saying is: you are so important to me that I’m prepared to blend my life with yours, and I will do everything I can to support your dreams while honouring my own.

At the heart of a truly loving and harmonious relationship is: balance, peace, and fairness. In many ways, an intimate relationship is like a plant: it requires care. If you neglect to meet basic requirements, it will wither and die. Relationships, like humans, flourish and grow when given optimal care. It is our nature to reach for the light.

 

If it doesn’t come naturally to you to put the well-being of your ‘loved one’ first, then it would be worth looking deep within to see which part of you is malnourished (as well as looking at why you stay in the relationship). To create love in our lives, we must BE love. And that inner artesian basin of love with one’s self needs to be continually renewed with life-giving nutrients. Intimate relationships are wonderful learning grounds, and show us exactly how much we value ourselves (or not).

Marriage need not be a prison, but a way of life that is deeply liberating. It can be a place from which we are given a mirror that shows us our full beauty and capacity to love.

Love is a deeply creative force that brings forth life. You can’t bake a cake without ingredients. You can’t grow a relationship of joy, abundance, and kindness if you don’t use love to nourish the soil.

Veronika Robinson is an author and celebrant. She’s been officiating weddings for almost 22 years. www.veronikarobinson.com She absolutely loves being married, and is so grateful to enjoy every second of loving and being loved.

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One of the questions that has been dominant in my mind for a few years has been: “What am I really good at?” Yeah, sure, there are plenty of things I’m good at, but what I really mean is: “What do I excel at?” I’m a classic ‘Jill of All Trades’, and have lots of skills at my disposal, but do I actually have any God-given gifts?

 

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The thing about having various skills is that it doesn’t allow one to master a particular skill when we’re being all “butterfly” about it, skipping here and there to enjoy the next passion. I even toyed (ever so briefly!) with the idea of going to university so I could become an expert in a particular area.

 

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And then something happened: something that changed my perception. It was mid December last year, and as much as I’m not a fan of the British Winter, I do look forward to Christmas. I genuinely love it (my family’s version, not the commercialised one) and was savouring the sweet and gentle crescendo of having my younger daughter come home from uni, and then the three of us travelling to our other daughter and her partner, and scrumptiously gorgeous granddaughter, for some more family time.

 

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I had an overwhelming ‘push’ to go and visit my dear friend. She’d been struggling for a long time with life, love and loss, and was the Queen of “Putting up the Drawbridge” (her words). I tried ignoring the voice telling me to visit her, thinking that if she wanted to be in touch she’d reply to one of my emails or visit or pick up the phone. We’d been friends for 18 years, and she knew that our door was always open to her, day or night, no matter what.

I followed my intuition (rather than ego), and turned up at her door unannounced. It took her a long time to answer. When she finally did, I didn’t recognise her. I cried. Had we passed on the street, I wouldn’t have known it was her. That she was standing in her doorway, was my only clue that it was with her. She was skin and bone, and her skin was shrivelled to that of someone twice her age. Hunched, with more than 50% of her vision gone, I knew there was a LOT of work to do to try and repair her health.

She was ashamed that she’d gotten to that state, and didn’t want to let me in the door. Well, I was hardly going to leave! Damn that bloody drawbridge! Her house reflected her inner and physical state. For someone who dearly loved their home, it was quite shocking to witness.

I spent a few hours with her, and promised I’d return. I then spent a whole day with her: cleaning her house, washing her hair, giving her a little foot massage, and just chit chatting all day long about this and that. The big stuff. The little stuff. I had made a couple of big pots of soup to put in her freezer so she could just take a portion out each day and heat it up. I knew my efforts were a drop in the ocean, but I’m also an optimist and truly believed that with time and love we could get her back on her feet. If I could help her get strongly physically, then we had a better chance of shifting the emotional and mental health. I begged her to come and live with us, but she wanted to stay in her own home.

Despite the grim situation, we even managed to laugh several times. It was a joy to see the light flicker in her eyes. All was not lost! We hugged for the longest time, heart to heart; and we both sobbed. We had eighteen years of friendship under our belt, and knew each other’s deepest secrets.

As I was leaving, I asked: “What can I do for you?” She replied: “Take me to the vet!”

The truth is that had any compassionate person seen an animal in that condition, they would have taken them to be ‘put to sleep’. Pain and misery is uncomfortable to witness if you have any level of empathy.

 

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I drove away with a heavy heart, and the light bulb went flashing on! “Veronika, you are really good at looking after yourself!”

Hell, yeah!

I suppose because I take my level of self-care and nurturing for granted ~ because it is so ingrained in what I do and who I am ~ I had never fully recognised it as one of my greatest gifts (even though, ironically, my friend had mentioned it many times over the years). Between her home and mine, another book was gestating inside me. The seed was planted. I would dedicate it to her, and she could use it as a workbook on self-love. The way my friend and I were mothered in childhood was completely different. My mum was the ultimate role model in self care!

 

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That friend, who had shared many Christmases with us over the years, and joined in family meals, and talked on the phone with me for hours, and went to the movies with me, and helped me plant an orchard, is never going to read that book.

She chose to leave this earthly world at Christmas. Her pain has ended, but I feel mine has only just begun as I try and ‘process’ everything about her life, my life, our differences, and my eternal optimism that the second half of her life could be so much better than the first fifty years, and that she could have joy, pleasure and meet a true soul mate who could be fully there for her. She is never going to walk through my front door again, or sit in the garden with me sipping tea. We’ll never discuss books or philosophy again. Certainly no more shared walks through the woods when the bluebells are in flower. There are no more hugs to be shared.

My grief is raw, deep, harrowing. I can only hope that I emerge as the Wounded Healer, and do for others what I couldn’t do for my dear friend: help them love themselves so much that they thrive in this world. That they recognise that self-love is priceless, and the fuller we are with a high-level of nurture, the more we can give to the world around us.

 

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Last weekend, I posted some pictures on Instagram of what I’d been doing. I’d gone for a run in the lovely countryside around my village. There was a pear and vanilla gluten-free vegan cake on the bench that I’d baked. Snuggled on the sofa by the woodstove, I immersed myself in a fabulous book. When the Sun beckoned me outside, I did my first spot of gardening for the year. I was in a state of joy and peace.

I started receiving messages from people saying things along the lines of: I want your life.

I guess what they were witnessing through my photos was a sense of contentment. And that is (grief aside!), how I feel about my blessed life. I’ve had more than my share of ups and downs over the years, but through it all I have always honoured my fundamental need for pleasure (and every human is born with that need).

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My senses are nourished on an hour-by-hour basis, through beauty, integrity and simplicity: love, flowers, wholesome food, my husband’s gorgeous coffee, music, friendship, water, solitude, lovemaking, nature, hot showers, essential oils, touch, laughter, and so the list goes on. It never occurs to me to deny myself the joy of pleasant scents in my home, or to not take advantage of gorgeous rays of sunshine. Whenever I can, I make time to meet with friends for a cuppa or a walk. I exercise most days of the week, whether that’s walking, running, gym or aquafit. Meals are made from scratch, and with love. I cherish the hours I spend with Mr Sweetheart. The key to my lovely life is that I don’t assume I’m going to be here in a year, though I most definitely plan ahead! I adore my diary!

My joy for life comes from today: here. Right now. And with that, is always the intuitive pull towards what I enjoy. Rainbows on my walls from the sunshine going through the window crystal. Yep. Fresh fruit in various hand-carved wooden or glass bowls. Yep. Flowers here, there, and everywhere. Yep. Beautiful music in the background. Yep. Jasmine essential oil infusing the air. Yep. Woodstove on. Yep. Cuddle with my darling. All day long! Company. Yep. Solitude. Yep. Reading. Yep. Walking. Yep. Time for a run? Yep. An urge to be creative? Yep. Doing work I love. Yep.

 

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Creating the life you want is about listening, and saying yes. It’s what I call the Sacred Yes.

There are times when I’m faced with something I don’t enjoy, like annual accounts or washing the mud off my car because it’s always getting filthy with living rurally. And grief isn’t one of my favourite things, either. But when I’m faced with such things, big or small, I find cushions to bring me comfort. I can do the BORING accounts with coffee in my favourite mug, and a candle burning. I can rest my eyes on beautiful flowers in between inputting figures into a database. Music can soothe my soul while the maths part of my brain is being tortured.

 

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When washing the car, I tell myself I’m getting strong leg muscles each time I squat! I fill the bucket with warm water and a hint of lemongrass oil (for my pleasure, not the car’s!). I let the piano music CD nourish me while I rub that pesky mud off.

And as for grief: if it flows through me, it helps. I give myself permission to hibernate and just be with the tears. I allow myself to snuggle into bed that bit longer, or allow the shower to get that bit hotter so I’m warmed down to my bones. The dawn chorus makes my heart lighter, so I listen for as long as I can before the rest of the day beckons.

Creating a beautiful life doesn’t grant you immunity from the shitty times, but it does offer you the grace to humbly see just how much there is in life to be truly grateful for. Even the hurt offers up beauty, if only we can see it.

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We are humans incarnated on this Earth to experience BEING HUMAN. We have this idea that we do all our growing through pain, but I don’t believe it has to be that way. Why can’t we grow through joy? Love? Passion? Contentment? Satisfaction?

I start and end each day with the affirmation: I am so grateful for my beautiful life. I repeat it in my mind throughout the day, too, whenever I’m not having to think about anything else.

Gratitude is life changing.

My guiding purpose in life, and for the rest of my days (and maybe years, if I’m around that long), is to create as much pleasure, love and beauty as is humanly possible. Like the flowers that grow in my garden, I want to hold my head to the sunshine and sigh with nothing but bliss. To melt into the warmth and light. That’s the life I want. That’s the life I have.

 

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A consequence of getting older (50 is on my horizon in just over a year) is an ever-growing, deeper appreciation for this amazing thing called life. I suppose, in my youth, it was something I simply took for granted. After all, I was going to live for a very long time. Often reckless, I bumbled along always ready for the next crazy adventure.

 

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When my dad died four years ago, his life cruelly snatched in a car accident one rainy morning in Australia, I faced mortality in a way that impacted me more than any other person’s death ever had. Hell, if my dad—superman—could die, then what hope was there for the rest of us? My dad, who’d survived third-degree burns in a fire in Papua New Guinea, malaria, pneumonia, cancer (twice), triple-bypass surgery, was gone. Just like that.

 

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In life, I was all too aware of how different we were. I hadn’t realised, until his death, the things we’d had in common: workaholic and ambitious. His death was my turning point, and for that I am so grateful. No longer was it acceptable to work seven days a week. Seriously, what was the point? The only thing we take with us when we die is love. And so death taught me to slow down. Really slow down. I no longer put pressure on myself. I haven’t gone from Type A personality to lazy ass, but I have slipped into a way of living that rests on one thing: pleasure. Does it make me happy? Does it honour me and my loved ones?

Interestingly, today’s super Full Moon is in the sign of abundant, money-loving, security-conscious Taurus. When I held my dad’s hand in his open casket, thanking him for all the hard work he’d done so we could have an abundant childhood on our property in rural Australia, my overriding feeling was: what was the point?

 

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He had worked so hard. He’d earnt a lot of money (and lost it, too) in his life. He worked overseas for months at a time. All that work. All that money. None of it was with him anymore. That moment solidified for me the true meaning of wealth: it’s in the minutiae of daily life, and the joy we allow ourselves to feel. It’s never about money in the bank (or under the bed). It’s the wells of gratitude we feel for this amazing life, and the passions we explore. I actually don’t know how long it would have taken me to figure that out had I not experienced my father’s death or witnessed his dead body.

 

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I don’t measure my wealth by my bank statements, but by the feeling I have when I wake up in the morning (glad to be alive, and looking forward to the day ahead), and the sense of satisfaction that tingles through every cell of my body when I crawl into my cosy bed at night.

This Christmas will be the first time, as a family, that we will have one daughter at home instead of two. It was just yesterday, though, I’m sure, when I decorated the tree with all the baby booties knitted for the impending birth of my first-born child; and how my loving husband would massage my pregnant belly beneath the lights of the tree. And now, that daughter will be having a Christmas tree with her first-born daughter. She will be starting her own family traditions. Oh how swiftly life travels by!

 

Each day, I find myself wanting to slow everything down just that bit more. I bought baby clothes for our little granddaughter, Sarah, yesterday…always thinking ahead to what she’ll need. At 11 weeks old, and blessing our lives in such beautiful ways, I find myself looking at clothes for 6 month olds, and even a year old. And yet, as fun as it will be to watch her become more fully who she is, I want to treasure these moments of babyness forever, and to breathe in the delicious scent of her skin. But life doesn’t work like that, does it? And each day she spends getting older, is one more day closer to my mother (now aged 77, living in Tasmania, Australia) getting closer to her transition. I’ve not seen my mother for eleven years now, and each day I am conscious that I want to see her again, and wrap my arms around her tightly. I don’t want to find myself in Tassie at her funeral without having had more time with her.

 

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Death. It makes you want more of life. Makes you greedy for all the love, joy, pleasure, fun and happiness. Life is so precious. Grab it with both hands. Enjoy that cappuccino, laze in bed that little bit longer on a Sunday morning, slow kiss your lover,  throw out your scales, snuggle up by the fire with a good book, take luxurious walks in Nature, kiss your kids even when you’re busy, make time to chat with friends, be extra loving to your partner, create meals you love to eat. These are the things which make life rich and beautiful. These are credit in the bank of life.

 

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“This is what happens around the world;
if you love, you grieve, and there are no exceptions.”

Funerals. They’re not something people like to think about, let alone talk about. They conjure up images from the movies of families huddled together by the graveside on a dark, grey, rainy day, sheltering under black umbrellas, as their loved one is laid to rest.

 

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Or maybe your own experience of attending a funeral immediately comes to the surface of your consciousness. Saying goodbye to someone who held a special place in our heart isn’t something we would willingly choose. The greater the love, the greater the loss. Grief hurts.

 

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If you’ve been involved in organising a funeral, you’ll probably have had a sense of the factory-farm nature of getting one lot of mourners into and out of a crematorium before the next lot of mourners arrive. There’s no time to be still. No time to let go. No real sense of having time and space to process what should be a meaningful and heart-felt ceremony. The same is often experienced in church services, too. You have an allotted time in which to be in and out. Does it have to be this way? No. Not at all. There are alternatives.

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What can you do if you’re responsible for, or part of a family that is, organising a ceremony? Firstly, consider all the aspects of what it means to create a meaningful funeral.

 

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The first step might well be to think outside the box. Do you have to use the church? Do you have to use the crematorium? I’m not saying or suggesting either of these venues is wrong, but do bear in mind that you will be placing yourself and other mourners under a severe time restriction. Regardless of your venue choice, you can still incorporate meaningful beliefs, whether they’re religious or otherwise.

 

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For any ceremony, creating a sense of sacred space immediately brings the human spirit to awareness. We see and feel that something out of the ordinary from daily life is about to happen. Whether you’re acting in the capacity of a celebrant or as a loving family member, there is so much you can do to set up a ceremonial space. Firstly, consider the venue. What was important in the deceased’s life? Were they a member of a sporting group? For example, could you hire a yacht club, or football club or village pub? Maybe they were a keen gardener or potter? Is there a garden or pottery place where you could hold the ceremony, and possibly the reception? Maybe you’ll opt for a graveside burial, and then have a longer ceremony in their favourite café (outside business hours). What about your local village hall?

Maybe your loved one was passionate about the sea? Could your ceremony be on a quiet beach?

 

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Perhaps there’s an old barn that could be used for the ceremony?

There are actually so many possible options for funeral venues that when you start thinking about them, you’ll wonder why people tend to go down the two routes of church/cemetery or crem. You will need permission, of course, from the land/building/venue owner. Legally, your only requirement for the ceremony is that the deceased’s body is covered. You do not need a coffin. You can use a shroud.

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The key for a mindful and meaningful ceremony is to choose a place where you will not feel rushed.

When considering how to set up the ceremonial space, think about all the human senses:

Sight: What decorations might you use? Flowers, plants, leaves, candles, lanterns. If you’re in Nature, let that be your décor.

 

Sound: Music, Nature (such as the wind or a babbling brook), bells, chimes, singing.

Taste: Maybe your loved one had a favourite drink? Could a small drinking vessel, such as a goblet, be passed around for everyone to share? (with a cloth napkin to wipe the rim after each person). Or you could use spring water…the foundation of all life. Maybe a small biscuit or chocolate could be part of the ceremony, as a way of honouring the sweetness of the deceased’s life?

Touch: Soft cloth for the altar, or a little memento for each person.

Smell: incense, essential oils, fresh air, scented flowers, or a sprig of rosemary on each seat for ‘remembrance’ which could then be placed on the shroud or coffin just before the committal.

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To enhance your sacred space, consider how you might define the area. Perhaps near the altar (a small table with a photo, candle, flowers, and anything symbolic of meaning to the deceased), you could make a circle on the ground/floor using: leaves, berries, rosehips, acorns, pinecones, flowers, or things that might have held meaning, such as marine ropes, bailing twine, paintbrushes, Matchbox cars, dolls, etc.

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Why not create a candlelit labyrinth using jam jars with a tealight in each one, inside a brown paper bag filled with sand. This is particularly beautiful if you’re having an evening ceremony. The coffin could be in the centre of the labyrinth, with each mourner taking the time to walk into the centre to say goodbye, and slowly going back out into the world as a different person. You can download a Classical Labyrinth pattern here: https://labyrinthsociety.org/make-a-labyrinth

Perhaps you could create a memory jar. Using a large glass jar, invite each mourner to write on a piece of card their favourite memory of the deceased.

Maybe you could decorate the space with Prayer flags/Love flags with colourful images or words relating to the deceased and their life.

Each mourner could cut out hands (drawing their hands onto cardboard, and then cutting them out) to put with coffin, and writing their names on saying ‘we are with you’.

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What about wooden or paper heart confetti to sprinkle over coffin or shroud?

Print cards with the words “I’ll always remember when…” and leave a pen/pencil for each guest to add their memory.

Consider a Lantern Ceremony (glass jam jars with thin wire and tea light)…glass paints or coloured tissue paper glued on the outside. Mourners could gather in a circle around the coffin/shrouded body, and create a circle of love throughout the ceremony. You can just imagine, I am sure, how powerful such a circle would feel.

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Use the deceased’s favourite colours as a theme.

Why not have a long piece of white wallpaper, and leave crayons or felt pens for mourners to create a timeline of the deceased’s life: they write down when and where they met.

This isn’t necessary, but you might find it inspiring: Consider ‘funeral favours’ for the mourners.

On each mourner’s seat, leave a bookmark of the deceased, plus their favourite quote.

Wildflower seeds. You can print your loved one’s name, dates of birth and death, and words of choice such as ‘forget me not’.
http://www.growamemory.co.uk/Wildflower-Seed-Packet-Memorial-Gifts/

 

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Flower bulbs. Give each mourner a bulb or bulbs to plant in memory of your loved one.

What about leaving a copy of your loved one’s favourite recipe printed out?

Depending on the location of your ceremony, you might consider a dove release, butterfly release or eco-friendly balloon release.

 

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In the midst of your grief, allow yourself to channel the adrenalin into creative choices.

By choosing an independent celebrant, you are taking a huge step towards gifting your loved one with a life-centred funeral. This is your final gift to them.

“When words are inadequate, have a ritual.” ~ Anon

Veronika Robinson is an Independent Funeral Celebrant who is available to officiate life-centred ceremonies throughout Cumbria.
www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant

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At the top end of Penrith’s cemetery, up on the hill overlooking town, there is a quiet oasis: a little haven away from the busyness of town. It’s the Woodland Burial Site.

 

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Woodland Burial Site, Penrith, Cumbria

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A peaceful haven: Woodland Burial Site

 

It’s fair to say that most people don’t think about how they will honour their loved ones or themselves after death in terms of funeral choices and disposal of the body.

 

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Penrith Cemetery

 

Increasingly, however, as people become more aware of the huge impact the funeral industry has on the planet, some are taking active steps towards honouring Mother Earth by choosing a low-impact burial. What does this mean?

 

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Penrith’s woodland burial site

 

It is about burying a body that hasn’t been filled with formaldehyde (which is used to preserve the body so a funeral can be delayed for a week or longer). Some people recognise that an eco burial also means thinking about the coffin. In some instances, families will choose not to use a coffin, though there a many eco ones on the market, and use, instead, something like a shroud. The only legal requirement is that the body not be seen. It is not a legal requirement to use a coffin.

 

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wildflowers on the woodland burial site

 

A woodland burial site doesn’t use headstones, but instead is a natural and holistic way of honouring death by allowing nature to grow unimpeded. Personally, I find it beautiful, simple and inspiring.

 

 

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A beautiful place

 

Oftentimes, people who have chosen the option of an eco burial will also practise home care: this is where the loved ones take care of the body, by keeping it cool with dry ice, and brushing the hair, cleaning the body, and keeping a vigil until the ceremony. Most people are unaware that using a funeral home is an option, not a necessity.

 

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Secluded and peaceful: Penrith’s Woodland Burial Site

 

 

We’re blessed in the Eden Valley to have such a wonderful resource as this woodland burial site, and I hope in time that it becomes the norm to bury our loved ones in this way (or on private land) as people move away from environmentally unfriendly cremations, headstones, and cemeteries that require constant upkeep through mowing and toxic weed killers.

 

Veronika Robinson is a funeral celebrant who is available to officiate ceremonies throughout Cumbria. Her work involves creating, writing and officiating ceremonies based on the wishes of her clients, and founded on their beliefs, whether they’re religious, humanist, spiritual or other. She is happy to work directly with families or via a funeral director. She is passionate about eco-burials, and opening up the conversation around death and dying in a conscious way. She is a supporter of the Natural Death Centre. http://www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant/funerals-memorials.shtml

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Penrith’s woodland burial site

 

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