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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog begun in 2012 about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.

I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps.

Around 2018 I tried a new way of writing my family's and my own UK travel adventures. Britain is a brilliant place for a staycation, mini-break and day trips. It's also a fantastic place to explore so I've begun to write up reports of places that are easy to reach by public transport. And when they are not that easy to reach I'll offer some tips on how to get there.

See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Monday, 6 August 2018

How to meditate with children using the epic Gita story

BOOK REVIEW: An imaginatively retold version of the Gita battle helps 8-14 year old children learn to recognise their emotions and may also introduce them to ways to repair their mental health via meditationWords by Nicola Baird - see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs

The book cover of Gita: the battle of the worlds.
A few years ago I took my mum and her sister to see the Mahabharata performed as a contemporary/Kathak dance at Sadler’s Wells. It was a whirl of colour and culture  attempting to take the Mahabharata, an epic Indian poem about the struggle for power between two groups of cousins, the Pandavas and Kauravas who battle for the throne of Hastinapura, to a new dance audience. It was an ambitious task: the story is apparently seven times the length of Homer’s The Illiad and The Odyssey combined. I suspect the Mahabharata is never easy to follow but my mum was totally foxed by this show. “I wish they’d made it easier to understand,” she said and I remember crushingly (wittily?) saying well it was written in 4BC so we ought to be able to follow the main storyline by now.

Here’s another India story basic Gita: the battle of the worlds taken from the Mahabharata canon. I’m self-conscious about trying to follow the story for you my readers, but suspect the back stories are just too much for me. This is no surprise given my knowledge of all things Hindu is exceedingly limited. However this new children’s book is described as a “reimagined adventure story transporting the sacred Hindu verse of the Gita [which comes from the Mahabharata] into a book that is relevant to everybody’s life”. Well, that’s the press release anyway. And I reckon it succeeds.

The Gita tour via blog sites.
The tale focuses on the battle for good and evil played out within the headspace (actually the body) of an 11-year-old boy, Dev whose father has recently died. Dev is a raging emotional wreck. But the battle is between two Princes, Ego (yeah, get that!) and Arjun (our good guy who has Krishna on side). It’s all reported by a sprite-like being, Sanjay.

There is a lot to suspend disbelief over, but actually the story works well as a read-aloud children’s tale. It’s magical, bloody and there are fun moments when your listener might recognise a swamp as a stinky digesting stomach, Ego as a villain or that their own unryuly feelings can be tamed by acknowledgement and meditation.  

The story is illustrated by a pattern master, Soumitra Ranade and you could possibly use some of the pictures for colouring in. 

My favourite image is a flashback of Dev’s handsome father meditating with the Rudrasksha Kriya beads in his right hand. By the end of the story Dev has found a way to deal with his anger and located his own quiet place. It is beautifully described as “like moving from a room in which telephones rang constantly and computer screens flashed and autorickshaws beeped and heat and cold and hunger nagged… to a simple, quiet place, where a single soft breeze whispered up and down his spine.” Who wouldn’t want that feeling of quiet contentment?

Jemma Wayne is a Woman’s Prize listed author. Sonal Sachdev Patel is a British born Indian Hindu that has been meditating for over 25 years. With a friendship that has spanned over thirty years, Jemma and Sonal have danced as toddlers in ballets together, studied alongside one another at Cambridge University and now have worked together on this epic story. With Sonal spear-heading Gita expertise and insight, and Jemma taking the lead on the book’s text, the result was a truly collaborative work, made all the more meaningful by the history and understanding between its creators. Each with two daughters, Sonal and Jemma are feminists and both strive to incorporate ways to speak out on important issues within their careers.
For an introduction to a section of the Mahabharata, taking in battles and poetry this version of Gita: the battle of the worlds is a gentle start and one I’d be happy to read and reread aloud. 

More importantly it introduces a very powerful idea about a meditative way to deal with the sort of adversity in life that there is nothing one can do about. Here the cause is a dead father and being forced to move house - easy for a youngster to spot. The symptoms of an over-active brain pounding poor Dev with misery as he recalls lost friends, tricky exams and an irritating younger sibling will also be easy to recognise, and talk about. 

For any child who has ever felt injustice (you’ll know because they’ll tell you that “it’s not fair”) this is a beautiful learning tool. Congratulations to the authors.

Sonal Sachdev Patel & Jemma Wayne-Kattan
Harper Collins, £7.99

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