Articles From Our Newsletter

Freedom from Pain - guided practices to overcome physical pain: two CDs by Peter Levine & Maggie Phillips

Reviewed by Lisa W

The authors say that most people suffering from chronic pain are disconnected from their body. This has certainly been my experience. When I wake up in the morning I feel as if I have to put all the painful parts of my body back together again.
There are about 20 different exercises, mostly based on breathing, tapping, visualisation, mindfulness. I find the approach quite novel, even though it's based on tools I've been using for years. Here's an example of one of the exercises and how I use it, to give you a flavour:

Finding a resting place in your body: the aim is to find possible places of respite from pain. At first I could only come up with elbows and ear lobes but much to my surprise I found more places over time like my heels, toes, middle of my back etc. You breathe into the resting place, connect with it, get a sense of what it feels like and whether there are any changes. I find this a very powerful exercise, hard at first but as I relax I get much more of a sense of what's happening and how it affects pain. For example I discovered my whole right side is less painful than the left, and that by breathing into my right lower back I can begin to shift the often severe pain in my left side.
I've been working with the CDs for about 2 months now and have found they can make a real difference - it's just so nice to get a break from pain.

(Winter 2013)



Mag Friel writes (or rather dictates through her voice amplifier):

I've had a pair of blackbirds in my garden for quite some time, and I noticed recently that they'd built a nest in the pyracantha bush at the end of the garden.

Then shortly after, building work started next door - the pyracantha bush borders next door's garden. They were digging up a huge area of thick concrete slabs with an electric saw. The noise & clouds of dust were absolutely horrendous, the workmen were wearing dust-masks, eye-shields and ear-defenders, and I was lying on my bed with ear-defenders and a pillow over my head, getting really upset by the noise, and all the neighbours were complaining about it too.

The poor blackbirds were coming out of their nest, sitting outside looking rather sad & bemused, not knowing what to do. I really thought they wouldn't survive and would just give up the ghost and find somewhere else.

But the other day, the first quiet day for ages, I was sitting out in the sunshine and I spotted the blackbirds, amazingly still there, coming in and out of their nest! I thought it was such an inspiring story about nature - that these tiny little birds were able to survive all of this.

(Summer 2013)


How to be Sick by Toni BernardHow To Be Sick - cover

Reviewed by Sue and Gemma

Toni Bernhard had been practising Buddhism for over twenty years when she had to give up a successful position as a law professor when the symptoms of ME left her housebound. As the months blended into years she began to apply the principles of Buddhism to the challenge of living with a chronic illness. Ten years later she produced this book. A synergy of the principles of Buddhism with tried and tested personal experience. This is someone who is living with all the issues we have to face.

We both highly recommend reading How To Be Sick firstly for the way the author writes so openly and honestly about her own experiences. We could relate to these experiences completely and found them reassuring and comforting. And secondly for the practical tools she suggests for helping you cope with the painful emotions that often accompany the challenges of living with a chronic illness. One such practice called Tonglen, is in essence about learning how to rejoice in the joy of others. How many of us find ourselves in emotional pain as we tear ourselves in pieces envying those we love who exist in the land of the healthy?

We found the practices simple and helpful, and the way she merges these with specific experiences makes them easier to understand and implement. We both struggle with reading but found this book, and the practices, more accessible than others. It's also available as an audiobook and on Kindle.

Besides being jam-packed with useful Buddhist wisdom it is a testimony to a woman who is striving to make the best of an unbearable situation and an inspiration to the rest of us doing what we can living with the challenges of a chronic illness.

(Autumn 2013)


Recipe & illustration by Geraldine Walsh:

Almond Fruit Crumble

Gluten/dairy/sugar free

Ground Almonds
Almond flakes
Fruit of choice (apples/pears/summer fruits)
Coconut oil (VCO or other) 2/3 tbsps. (as desired)
Juice of one orange
Cinnamon or vanilla
Raisins 1/2 cup
Almond Fruit Crumble illustration

Gently cook the fruit & raisins till tender with a little water or juice (depending on desired sweetness) & add vanilla at this point or cinnamon.
Strain liquid and put fruit into a baking dish layer the top with the ground almonds and then sprinkle with flaked almonds.
Melt 2/3 tablespoons of coconut oil into the juice saved from cooking the fruit. Add in the juice of an orange to the mixture.
Then distribute the juice over the crumble (making sure that all the topping is covered) Bake 20-30 mins or till golden.

Note: can replace with other topping e.g. polenta/rice flakes/oats
VCO = virgin cold pressed coconut oil
For a health boost use organic ingredients
Alternative to raisins or sweeteners: Agave cactus syrup/Rapadura sugar or honey.

(Winter 2013)


Can I Tell You About ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, by Jacqueline Rayner

Reviewed by Catherine Hale

Can I Tell You About ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - cover I wanted to share this review I've written of a new book just published that explains ME/CFS in clear, simple terms, to our nearest and dearest. I should declare an interest because I'm friends with the publisher, JKP. But I genuinely think this is a bit of a "must-have" book, especially if you're a parent with ME. (And I haven't always recommended JKP's books on ME...)

I've had ME for twenty five years and always, always struggled to find the words to explain what it's like to other people. Not just what the symptoms feel like, but how the stigma affects us, and how this illness invades every part of our lives. Can I tell you about ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? is a new book that has just done it for me. What a relief! With guidance from Invest in ME, this book describes a fictional family in which Molly, the mum, has ME. It gives us her perspective and also that of her husband and children on the impact ME has on their lives. In a few beautifully simple chapters, it conveys everything we need our friends and loved ones to know and understand. Best of all the book is short, snappy, jargon-free and even child-friendly so you can thrust it into people's hands and there's no excuse for them not to read it!

Besides being jam-packed with useful Buddhist wisdom it is a testimony to a woman who is striving to make the best of an unbearable situation and an inspiration to the rest of us doing what we can living with the challenges of a chronic illness.

(Spring 2014)


Talking books

Helen B recommends the RNIB talking book service. Although it is aimed at the visually impaired, many of us with ME struggle to read books due to fatigue, weakness, brain fog, light sensitivity.

They have a library of over 21,000 audio books, which come either as Daisy CDs to be played on a special DAISY player, or as MP3 CDs which can be played on an MP3-CD player. They can let you know which machines are compatible.

Helen says, "They have thousands of books usually read very well - some by the actual author, and are always updating their list and will take suggestions to put forward for possible recording if they don't have what you want in stock."

Annual subscription is £50 which can be paid by monthly direct debit. For more information see or tel 0303 123 9999

(Spring 2014)


Healthier treats - no added sugarTruffles clip art

Marielke writes:
These recipes use organic raw cacao powder or raw chocolate (not the roasted, processed cousin known as cocoa), which many people in the raw foods community believe is a superfood for health and vitality. It is certainly very high in antioxidant flavanoids and magnesium. I got my cacao powder from, but your local health food store may also stock it.

Truffles (makes approx 25)
  • Melt a 200g bar of creamed coconut in the microwave. Put it on for 45 seconds, stir it and then continue in increments of 15 seconds until it's fully melted, taking care to not let it burn.
  • Add 2 tbs of raw cacao powder to the thick liquid and stir in.
  • Optional: add 1 tsp agave nectar if you want it sweeter.
  • Put the mixture in the fridge to cool down and harden slightly, for up to one hour, checking every 15 minutes and stirring it so that it firms up evenly. The texture should be a bit like chunky breadcrumbs, the heat of your hands will help it come together.
  • With clean hands, take 1tsp of the mixture and roll in to a ball. Place on a plate covered with greaseproof paper or clingfilm, and continue to make balls with the rest of the mixture.
  • You can either leave the truffles as they are, or you could roll them in chopped nuts, or desiccated coconut, for example.
  • Store in a cool place. If keeping in the fridge, take them out 30 minutes before consuming so they have softened slightly.
(These truffles were very well received at the January meditation session!)

(Spring 2014)


Insomnia and ME

Zena writes:

How many people with ME that you know suffer from insomnia? 50%? 75% ? Maybe even higher?

My insomnia actually predates my ME by more than 50 years - I started having sleeping difficulties as an adolescent. I was prescribed sleeping pills, but in the end I decided I preferred not sleeping to the hungover, heavy feeling the pills left me with next day. I'm not much of a pills person - I don't even take vitamins anymore. The only pills I take are Osteoguard - a combination of calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D3, to ward off osteoporosis.

Anyway, a couple of months ago, my daughter Natasha came home from one of her tours announcing, "I've got you something for your insomnia"! I immediately said "Not pills!" but it turned out to be a little box labelled "this works: sleep," containing 2 little phials, 2 or 3 inches long. The longer of the two was a little spray labelled "this works: deep calm pillow spray", containing homeopathic amounts of lavender, vetivert and chamomile oils among other things. The shorter phial, labelled "this works: breathe in" was to be rolled on to the pulse points on each wrist and then breathed in deeply; it contains lavender, eucalyptus and frankincense oils among other ingredients.

I sprayed my pillow and anointed my wrists and took six or seven deep breaths. And I had the best night's sleep for donkey's years! I did this for four or five days, then I found I could sleep without it. So that 's what I'm doing now - I spray and breathe when I can't sleep, then go several days sleeping without it. It's wonderful.

Sweet dreams!

Love Zena xx

(Spring 2014)


Future Learn

Simone writes:

Someone sent me this link recently. He said he had tried one of their courses and that he recommended them.

They are short online courses, usually only 3 hours a week for a few weeks - which might be manageable for some of us - on a wide range of topics from Moons, through Creative Writing to The Brain and they are FREE. Part of it involves putting you into small groups so you can have a bit of interactive course discussion with your fellow learners. Sounds like some people do them at the same time as their friends. The courses are offered by different Universities and no previous qualification is required. Your computer doesn't have to be up-to-date for a lot of them. Am thinking of doing Creative Coding myself, and maybe also The Brain and…

(Summer 2014)