I’ll be one of a wonderful line-up of speakers at TEDxNoosa this year. TEDxNoosa is a one day event held at The J in Noosa Junction. It is a fully catered for event and doors open at 8am. It is a jam packed day with 18 speakers presenting over 4 sessions, an Innovation Alley, interactive art, displays and even a space workshop. We highly recommend you come ready with an appetite to ponder and meet a very diverse audience throughout the day. This is unallocated seating to give you the opportunity to interact with different people throughout the day. The program guide will be sent to ticket holders prior to the event.
Many dairy farmers in my part of the world have been doing it tough for years. Drought, floods, deregulation, supermarket price wars and now back to drought again. The number of dairy farms has decreased dramatically and farmers are actively discouraging their children from following in their footsteps. The hours are crushing, the days endless and the return not enough to survive on.
Recently I met with the dairy farmer who supplies my milk. With great concern I asked him how he was faring. His answer took me by surprise.
“Better than ever. The business is going from strength to strength.”
Why? Niche marketing. He doesn’t sell to the big companies who supply the supermarkets, instead he has developed his own range of organic and biodynamic milk, yoghurt and cream. He also has another niche market which is growing steadily and it’s from this niche that I buy my milk.
The sale of raw milk is perfectly legal in some countries and states and perfectly illegal in others. Most dairy farmers I’ve spoken with have drunk raw milk all their lives and intend to keep drinking it until the day they leave for other pastures. It’s legal for them to drink it because the cows belong to them. Which is where my farmer’s other niche resides. I have bought into his herd and therefore I’m able to enjoy the raw milk from that herd.
Before we became industrialised and moved to the cities those that drank milk drank raw milk. These days with transportation times and the demands for shelf-life pasteurisation is de rigueur. Fair enough. No one wants to get sick and not many people like rancid milk. I’m fortunate to live close to a dairy farmer who’s allowed me to buy in.
When I get my milk the first thing I do is pour a glass and drink it down. Delicious. After that it goes into the usual cups of tea and everyday use. But that all changed about six weeks ago. The Hubby came home from work and amongst his news of the day was this;
“One of my colleagues drank only raw milk for forty days. She said it was wonderful and by the end she smelt like a baby.”
He had me at “raw milk”. I didn’t particularly want to smell like a baby but the idea of ingesting nothing but raw milk had enormous appeal. My body said, “Yes please.”
Never one to jump in without knowing the facts I began to research the subject. The internet abounds with information about raw milk cleanses, raw milk fasts and raw milk cures but by far the most detailed information is from two gentlemen; Bernarr (sic) McFadden and Dr Charles Porter. The Milk Diet was very popular early last century and at the time both men wrote how-to books on curing chronic diseases with milk. The Milk Diet: How to Use the Milk Diet Scientifically at Home by McFadden is very practical. Milk Diet as a Remedy for Chronic Disease by Charles Sanford Porter, M.D. is also useful but rather amusing. He suggests hair mattresses, sleeping pavilions and enough time away from our busy lives to stay in bed for weeks. The books overlap in their information and procedures but the MacFadden instructions are far more conducive to a lifestyle that involves going to work and a remarkable dearth of servants.
Both MacFadden and Porter start off their protocols with a fast, to ready the body for what’s to come. It doesn’t have to be long. A couple of days will do it. Fruit, mainly citrus and a few dates perhaps, or just water. While I fasted I re-read their books, both available for free on the internet. The cures they were doing with the Milk Diet were astounding. Just about everything, they claimed, except cancer. Both of them state the reason the milk cure didn’t become more popular was that no one could believe anything so simple could work.
The first two weeks of raw milk were easy. No hunger and no cravings. The Hubby joined me and lost ten kilos in those two weeks while I lost four. I made clabbered milk, a term I’d never heard of before this raw milk adventure. It was popular before the advent of pasteurisation. It merely involves leaving some raw milk out in a clean glass jar covered with a tea towel. Within a day or two the clabbered milk becomes a great source of beneficial bacteria. Unfortunately if you try this with pasteurised milk it will just go off. The Hubby and I drank a glass of this thick, soured milk every morning.
Week three was tougher and I began to crave not my usual sweet things and baked goods but scrambled eggs with greens. Week four was easy again and each glass of milk was sweet and satisfying. I lost just over six kilos in total, about fourteen pounds. A gradual return to the world of food sees me eating vegetables at night with an egg or two and drinking milk during the day up until about one pm, as instructed by Mcfadden.
I’ve loved this raw milk adventure. I haven’t gone hungry and I’m amazed that it’s been so easy. I feel clearer, stronger, lighter and thrilled that the craving for the foods that do me harm have completely gone. It’s as if I’ve reset my body and my emotions by going back to my days as a baby when all I drank was raw milk. Thanks mum. Is it for everyone? Possibly not. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Did I end up smelling like a baby? I don’t think so. Do I want to buy into the arguments against raw milk? Not particularly. I know what works for me. I know what works for my dairy farmer. And we’re both happy with that.
DISCLAIMER: Information on this post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional.
Here I am, a woman from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, a long, long way from New York City where The Huffington Post is based. So how did I become a blogger for HuffPost?
To tell you the truth it was totally unexpected.
I knew Arianna Huffington was a huge fan of meditation and I just happen to have written a book about how meditation changed my life, saved my job and helped me find a husband. I thought perhaps she might like to read my book, and if she enjoyed it she might tell her friends about it.
I tracked down her email address, it wasn’t hard, and after she had finished her holiday digital detox I sent her an email. This is what it said:
Mary-Lou, many thanks for thinking of us. We would love to feature your voice on HuffPost about your meditation memoir. I’m ccing our Third Metric editor Carolyn Gregoire as well as our Books editor Zoe to follow up. All the best, Arianna
Thanks so much for reaching out, Mary-Lou. We’d be thrilled to feature your voice on the page. All we need to get started is a first blog (typically 500-1,000 words), along with a headshot and a bio, all in one email. Please let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to send a copy of the book to the below address. Best, Carolyn
Many years ago I was head-hunted to start up a new radio station in a major regional market. It was exciting, thrilling and ultimately exhausting. After almost a year I was at breaking point. After each frantic and demanding day I would crawl back to my small apartment to cry and eat ice cream. The only thing I was capable of reading was junk mail; not much text, lots of pictures and the promise of happiness. Fortunately I had a wonderful mentor, he even looked a bit like Yoda. He suggested I read a particular book.
I ordered a copy and when it arrived tossed the junk mail in the recycling bin and began to read. What I found within its pages changed my life.
The Secrets of the Rainmaker by Chin-Ning Chiu is based on a story Carl Jung used to tell about the power of miracles. In this story a village has been in drought for many years. The people have tried everything but the drought remains crippling. Finally they call upon a renowned Rainmaker from afar. The Rainmaker arrives, pitches his tent and disappears inside it for four days. On the fifth day the rain begins to fall. When the villagers ask him how he’d achieved such a miracle he answers that he didn’t do anything. When he arrived he noticed that the village was not in harmony with heaven. He spent four days inside his tent putting himself in harmony with the Divine. Then the rain came.
To say I was surprised by what I read is an understatement. I was expecting a book about getting ahead, cramming more into each day and beating my opponents. Instead I devoured a book about surrender, ease and meditation. It spoke to my weary soul with words like, “When one is excessively busy, the heart is dead”. I set about reviving my heart and replenishing my soul. Day after day in the darkness of early morning, I sat, breathed and gave my heart and mind a place to rest.
I had tried many guided meditations before, in my time in Twelve Step programs recovering from a gaggle of addictions, but this was the first time I let my mind just be.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but by spending this time in meditation and reflection I was slowing down enough to allow the angel of good fortune catch up.
It took a lot longer than the Rainmaker’s four days but it did happen. Miracles occurred, unexpected miracles that remain and continue to unfold to this day. And to this day I continue to meditate, allowing the angel of good fortune to catch up as often as possible.
Let’s face it. Diets aren’t about reaching your healthy goal weight.
Feature: Change Your Life By Doing Nothing
Mary-Lou Stephens changed her life, saved her job and found herself a husband – all through the power of meditation.
“For a first book, it’s exquisite.”
We all know the rules. Stories, whether fiction or memoir, need to contain conflict. So when I heard that Mary-Lou Stephens had written a book about ten days of silence at a meditation retreat, my inner cynic snorted. Where’s the conflict in a bunch of people sitting silent and cross legged all day? Maybe Mary-Lou’s peppered the narrative with interesting flashbacks, but even so, the book is 270-pages long. What’s going to move the story forward? When I finally meet Mary-Lou Stephens, I admit that Sex, Drugs and Meditation is an interesting title, but what I really want to know is how she made a book about silence so interesting that the world’s fifth largest publisher wanted it.
The answers are in the text, but they’re not easy to explain. I’ve read the Macmillan-published book twice now, and to get your head around how she accomplished this feat, you have to imagine the book as three narratives, each with its own antagonist. In the first narrative we meet Mary Lou in her afternoon drive-time ABC radio presenter persona, competent to the core, clearly loving her job. But then along comes nasty Mr Purvis, with his sharp suit, his pointy shoes and his perfect teeth. He tells everyone there’s been a restructure and even the old hands must reapply for their jobs. The Hideous Mr Purvis, as Mary-Lou calls him, is her new-found capricious enemy, and is the literary equivalent of Chekov’s gun. We know he’s coming back in the final scenes to take a swipe at Mary-Lou’s composure; he’ll turn up again after her meditation retreat, no doubt. In the meantime, though, it’s the Christmas break and she’s off to the Vipassana retreat.
Those familiar with meditation centres will recognise the subtle interplay of powers and hierarchies that Mary Lou flags. This is Mary-Lou’s first time; returnees get special tea, a tailored meditation routine, and possess an enviable straight-backed purity. Soon it’s obvious to readers that the antagonist in this second narrative is Mary-Lou’s inner critic. Readers familiar with Bridget Jones will recognise the negative self talk. Regarding Bernadette, a fellow meditator she’s only just met: I’m hoping we’ll be friends and I like my friends to be as flawed as I am. Because no one’s able to talk, Mary-Lou tells herself all kinds of stories about the people here: that the straight-backed meditator feels no pain, that her roommate suffers lung cancer, and that the cool yoga chicks want Mary Lou out. In Mary-Lou’s Sittings of Strong Determination, she must learn to remain composed against the demanding pain of an old knee injury. Quiet on the outside, her inner self is all noisy turmoil. At one point during her meditation, she takes up her imaginary machine gun, and mentally opens fire on all the perfect people that annoy her and then all the imperfect people who annoy her. As the heavy artillery rains down, she declares to her inner triumphant self, Take that you fucking serene shits.
Dealing with ‘serene shits’ is only one of Mary Lou’s myriad challenges. In the third narrative, presented through flashbacks, we meet the younger Mary-Lou: needy child, isolated adolescent, young adult junkie, talented musician. The antagonist in this narrative is Mary-Lou’s mother. From age eight, Mary-Lou felt that her mother, already burdened with raising five other children, simply stopped loving her. Mary-Lou’s never been able to reclaim that love, and always feels as if she doesn’t come up to her mother’s expectations. The dramatic climax to this narrative is the day Mary Lou’s mother condescends to tell her daughter she mustn’t have a social drink today because she’s a recovering alcoholic. [My mother] said it with meanness and spite. Sitting on the couch opposite me, glass of sherry in her hand. I felt wounded beyond measure. I’d been honest with her about my work in Twelve Step programs and she threw it back at me, as an insult. I could let it slide but I knew I would resent it. ‘Mum, it makes it really hard for me to tell you things that are important to me when you say things like that.’ ….She said nothing. The silence stretched between us. I began to panic. I had just stood up to my mother and it didn’t feel good. It didn’t feel safe. I wanted to suck those words right back in….Instead, Mary Lou rallies against a retraction and holds her ground in silence. It is a pivotal moment in the book, and an astonishing tribute to the power of silence in the context of conversation. It marks a nice contrast with the studied, contrived silence of the meditators, a much harder silence to admire.
Beyond the book’s clever structural conceits, you’ll find a narrator with a taste for humour: be it ironic, bathetic, or self deprecating. At times her voice turns lyrical, particularly in passages that coalesce around grief: the Port Arthur massacre, her mother’s two miscarriages, and the loss of her father. For a first book, it’s exquisite. She says there’s a sequel on the way. Whether it’s about silence or not, it’s sure to get the tongues wagging.
Ali Quigley, SCLA secretary
The past is pulling me back. Sometimes as slow and sweet as honey flowing from a jar. Sometimes as sharp as cold metal. I’m going home, back to the land that raised me, back to the town where I was born. It’s the time of year when people gather, with friends, with family, to celebrate the old and light a candle for the future.
You make a move in life, a decision no matter how small, and that move or decision ripples out, bumping up against other decisions, other lives.
Long before I board the plane the past is nibbling at my ankles. A long neglected friend calls from the south. He sounds as though he’s at the bottom of a well. His life has fallen to pieces, he needs a friend. I tell him I’m coming down for a the holidays. I feel the weight of his need. He clings to me in the hope that I will patch him up, help him through, make him feel like the person he was all those years ago when we were friends. I’m his portal to the past, to happier days.
The past is enticing me back. I receive an email from a school friend. He wants to plan a reunion for later in the year. It’s been an embarrassing amount of time since we were at school together and he wants to celebrate that fact. He’s sent this email to others from our year and soon I’m connecting with people I haven’t seen for decades. The annoying boy that I used to avoid in the school hallways is now a successful lawyer. His email gives away the fact that everything he does in life is considered from every angle. I admire the way his mind works and I’m amazed that I can now relate to some one I had nothing in common with when we were kids. I suggest we meet up for a cup of tea when I‘m in town. I’m sure he drinks espresso.
The past is calling me back. My gaze falls on a photo of my family at the beach when we were young. A friend had mentioned that we all look as though we’re in pain. I explain that even though the photo was taken in the middle of summer the water was freezing and out toes were probably turning blue. I smile and pack my bathers anyway.
The past is calling me back. I embrace it as the jet engines thrust me into the wide blue open. I’m going home to acknowledge the past, to honour all we’ve achieved over the days and months of the year that’s been. And I’m going home strong in the knowledge that the year to come will grant us many more smiles and sighs, will bring laughter and tears, and will give us many more reasons to celebrate.
I’ve finished the latest draft of my next book. Not all the words I’ve written have made it into the next round. Instead of being in the book I’m turning my darlings into blog posts. Seems I can’t kill them after all.
My brother never thought he would die. When his doctor, and friend of many years, told him that if he kept drinking he only had two years to live, my brother said “Tosh” and promptly found himself another doctor. I took him to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting once. I was back in my home town on holiday and thought I should do my family duty. I was the one experienced in Twelve Step programs. He had tried AA but said it didn’t work for him. He had a number of justifications as to why but I thought we could hold them up to the light, to discover whether we could see through them to the truth on the other side. The meeting was full of people, mainly men, sitting in a close circle. They shared in sequence. When it was my brother’s turn he declined. It didn’t matter. Another man told my brother’s story, even though the experiences were his own.
As I listened it was as though a small miracle occurred. My brother’s excuse, that he couldn’t relate and didn’t belong in AA because he’d never been to jail, ceased to hold water when compared to the words of that man.
He had been a successful professional, like my brother, he had enjoyed drinking his entire adult life, his friends liked to drink, they enjoyed getting drunk together. It was a social thing, a professional thing, but for this man it was more, it became a must do thing, a compulsive thing, an out of control thing, a desperate thing, a rehab thing, an AA thing. My brother’s story. Oh, the injustice of it that his friends could still enjoy a drink whereas he was labelled a drunk, an alcoholic. But this man, with the help of AA, had stopped drinking, had found a way to live and love his life again, without the alcohol, one day at a time. I sat and listened and said a little prayer that my brother’s ears would be opened. And for a flicker, a glimmer, I thought they were. He spoke with the man afterwards and as we walked back to my brother’s little flat he said that he’d never heard a story in AA before that he’d related to as much. Hope. Such a fragile thing.
The next day I took his youngest daughter to the annual agricultural show. My brother wanted to come too. I don’t know why. He was weak and shabby from the drink, dithering and feeble, unable to walk the rounds of the exhibits and judging areas, incapable of surviving a wild ride at side-show alley. But he came and within minutes was exhausted. He told us he’d meet us on the grandstand at the grand arena. He would sit and watch the show jumping and other events happily until we were ready to go home. I believed him. Why wouldn’t I? He’d heard his story the night before. He knew he could recover now, as long as he didn’t drink.
Later my niece and I, laden with show bags, went to join her father. We couldn’t find him on the grandstand. “He’s probably inside,” she said. There was a glassed in area with seats and screens, where punters could watch proceedings in a more comfortable surroundings. We walked through the glass doors and I spotted him immediately, propping up the bar, glass in hand, chatting with an equally sozzled gent.
My heart cracked. I had convinced myself that he had seen the light. I was wrong.
There was not a trace of guilt or remorse in him. He was content. Dumb, alcohol-fucked, but content. His brain, beyond knowing what he was doing, had fallen into the crevasse of habit. I glared at his drinking companion. The whole town knew the perilous state of his health, knew he had a problem with the demon drink. Yet here was this man, a supposed friend, inviting my brother to partake of yet another round. And my brother sheep-like and woolly-minded trotted along the well-worn trail to the slaughter house.
Broadcaster-turned-author Mary-Lou Stephens is well-known to Sunshine Coast locals, thanks to her popular afternoon ABC program. Fans of her radio show are relishing her very personal memoir Sex, Drugs and Meditation, which was released through Pan Macmillan Australia earlier this year.
Annah Faulkner’s first novel The Beloved received widespread acclaim, including taking out the 2011 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for an Emerging Queensland author.
Ninety-one-year-old environmentalist, author and artist Emma Freeman rounds out the trio, which is set to entertain readers and budding authors alike.