This week we chat to "Friend of FINDRA" Neeta Madahar as she tells us about her professions as an artist-photographer and part-time yoga teacher, also her long-lasting connection to nature and the outdoors and much more!
How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
Access to nature and the countryside became an integral part of my life in my late thirties when my husband Paul and I moved to our present home in 2004. We’d previously spent time living in the US, Massachusetts specifically, and I believe that had a massive impact on my sense of space and relation to landscape. Growing up in an Indian household in a London suburb in the 1970s, the outdoors was the garden or the local park. Neither my family, nor any of the Indian families I knew were into the outdoors; nobody hiked or camped. My older brother had a Chopper bicycle which I remember being one of the coolest things on the planet, but he considered his little sister one of the un-coolest things on the planet, so I couldn’t be caught anywhere near it. Gaining the benefits of being in the outdoors has been part of my adult journey and thanks to the support of friends, great instructors and organisations, my experience and confidence are blossoming.
What’s been a favourite trip or adventure?
Last month, I tried stand-up paddleboarding for the first time, in West Bay, Dorset and I’m hooked, in fact, I loved every minute of it! The gorgeous location, sunshine, blue sky, and waters only enhanced the experience.
SUP had been on my list of new things to explore for a long time and when a close friend’s birthday celebrations in Eype included SUP on the sea with Bay Paddle Boards, I was delighted. Sara Bennett and her daughter Fran were fantastic instructors and a lot of fun. I laughed so much. Even though I fell into the water numerous times within minutes of standing up on my board, that didn’t diminish my enthusiasm. I treated my first try of SUP as an opportunity to develop some finesse hauling myself out of the water and back onto the board. Not pretty, but I did improve.
How do you find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?
I’ve found what works for me is simplicity and supporting myself to do more of what makes me happy and less of what makes me unhappy, so I know by now, for example, I’m not interested in going to a gym. At a minimum, I cherish a daily 15-min therapeutic Qigong practice called Dragon and Tiger because it has tremendous health benefits and then anything else active I do on top of that is a bonus, whether that’s yoga, dancing (in my bedroom), walking or some more recent outdoor activity.
Is there anyone who enriches your love of the outdoors?
I love going for walks with my friend Mhairi Stewart. Last year, at a local health and wellbeing fair, we got into a conversation about walking. As soon as she uttered the words, “I’m the kind of gal that likes a scone at the end of a walk,” I knew I was with a kindred spirit. Since then, we’ve been enjoying exploring different trails together e.g. the Giant’s Grave circular walk in the Vale of Pewsey, and finishing most walks with a meal at a country pub. Mhairi is smart, funny, and easy to be around. When we’re walking, enjoying the views, we’re constantly shifting between deep, intimate conversations about life and laughing at silly things. She enriches my love of being in nature for which I thank her.
Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?
I’m fortunate that living in a rural place, there are lovely walks on my doorstep. Whether I only have time to walk for 15 minutes or have the gift of more time, I love that being in nature lifts my mood and helps balance my perspective on things. When I’m out walking alone, I usually break out into spontaneous gratitude for the perfect moments I’m encountering. I love knowing that I’m part of the cycle of life; that I’m an aggregate of the Earth’s elements and that I’ll return to the Earth as these elements again one day.
What is it about cycling that you love?
I recently began adult cycling lessons with a wonderful teacher, Caroline Lane. I haven’t cycled since I was a child and for a long time I’ve been longing to reconnect with the fun and freedom of being on a bike again. Caroline’s been amazing helping me re-build my confidence. I’ve been enjoying our cycle rides on the trails around Greenham Common, especially beautiful with the gorse in bloom. My goal is to get brave enough to cycle out on the rural roads where I live, alone and with like-minded friends, with a backpack containing my camera, sketchbook, drawing materials, chocolate, and some sandwiches!
When did you discover FINDRA?
Last year I spent a lot of time researching outdoors wear and as an artist, I wanted something beautiful, sensuous, practical and a little bit different. I was left feeling uninspired by a lot of what I saw. When I stumbled upon Findra, I thought that’s it! This is a company that is combining form with function to make products that are beautiful in look and feel, things I would like to design myself, for someone like me, a 55-year-old woman.
What’s a helpful piece of advice you’ve received?
Some recent and profound advice I’ve received is, “Marry the Process, Divorce the Result.” This has not only helped with artistic endeavours, when I get too caught up trying to make something perfect, but in a broader sense, it’s actively guiding me to create the life I desire. One where I get out of my head and engage my senses trying things out to discover more about myself and what makes me happy. Simple, powerful and it’s working for me.
On writing this blog, what do you feel is the key motivational or inspirational message you would like to highlight to our followers that would inspire them to get outdoors more.
I enjoy reading the Findra blogs as they feel inclusive, they’re not all about being a hugely athletic, adventurous individual. I warm to the idea about enjoying the outdoors whoever and wherever you are and whatever stage you’re at in life. Although I’m considered sociable, I’m deeply private, still on a journey of becoming more confident in the outdoors. My suggestion is to start today and start simply, nurturing yourself as you would a small child. Engage the senses touching the bark of trees, squeezing your toes into grass, or feeling the touch of sea foam across your fingers say. It sounds romantic, but our bodies are meant to have a visceral connection with nature and the Earth. It’s fundamental to wellness.
My art studio at the bottom of my garden is a sunshine yellow cabin, an adult ‘Wendy House’ looking out onto fields and where I feel my most authentic self. To me it’s a sacred space, one in which I routinely lose track of time. It brings me indescribable joy to have a dedicated ‘room of one’s own’ for my creativity. I love that the space sits surrounded by nature and how light fills the room, changing at different times of the day and across seasons. I also love when I’m at my desk, learning the craft of Indian Miniature painting, looking out of the window to see different birds, like woodpeckers, gold finches and nuthatches, at the feeders on my apple tree.
I’m seeing Diana Ross in concert soon. To say I’m beyond excited is an understatement! I’ve had a crush on Ms Ross ever since I was a little girl. Her song, “I’m coming out,” is on my playlist for 15-20 mins of joyful, daily dancing. I love its beat, its strength, positivity, and the idea of letting go of old ways of living and doing things to embrace new ways of being. It’s motivating me to try contemporary dance classes as soon as possible