The power of acceptance

There is an alternative: the power of acceptance

Ever feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall? I hope only metaphorically but frustration may get us close to the physical action!

We have a problem. We seek to find a solution. Again and again. Nothing seems to work and we still have the same problem – except we are now also tired. Tired out of trying to solve the problem.

This will sound counter intuitive but here goes. Accept the problem as it is – stop trying to ‘solve’ it (for a while at least).

What’s the benefit? A reduction in frustration, anger, stress . . . a saner self!

I experienced this with a telecoms problem I have last week: there was a moment I realised I had to accept the problem as it appeared I could do nothing to influence it. The acceptance brought me respite from constantly using my energy to try to bring about change. I still have a telecoms problem . . . but I am well in the midst.

Acceptance is an attitude that – surprisingly – changes things!

This is Mindful Monday on 1 March 2021. Join a virtual session of mindfulness on Monday 8 March 7-8.15 pm. Email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details.

Truth rediscovered

Again and again

We need to re-discover truths again and again. Not because we doubt them but simple because they are so big.

Here’s one of those truths: the only moment we know is the present. However much energy we devote to the future, it is unknowable. The future is unchanged by our ruminations and anxious thoughts. Yet while we’re focused on the future, our present is impacted. We miss it in the fog of imagining what is yet to come.

We can control only how we respond to the present. Today – with all its burdens and responsibilities, its joys and opportunities. Happenings we would choose and those we would not choose.

If we can glimpse this truth, begin to accept it (again and again), we start to notice what is, to live more fully. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all panacea to the tough stuff of life; it is reality. As we put our energy into today – to notice what is and respond to it – the tomorrow that never comes will indeed take care of itself.

This is Mindful Monday on 22 February 2021. Join an evening of mindfulness on zoom on Monday 8 March 7-8.15 pm. Email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details.

Ring the changes

Quit sleepwalking

The more our days are samey, the easier it is to sleepwalk through them. Sure, our eyes are open but we fail to notice much.

We make a cup of tea and drink it. A moment later we check our empty mug: we do not recall the warmth, the taste, the smell – all the sensations of having a cuppa.  It’s a small example of failing to experience living to the full. We miss the moment entirely.

A fellow participant on a pain management course I went on many years ago shared a top tip with me on how to remain aware – live consciously – even when things are samey. It has stayed with me and I think you too will find it useful.

A biker living with ongoing pain from a major motorcycle accident, each time he bought washing up liquid he bought a different one. He did this so that when he was washing up he could experience a change in the smell and even the texture of the bubbles. In an everyday activity, he was intentionally ringing the changes in order to awaken his senses.

What change could you make this week to enable you to be more fully awake, to notice, to live life more fully? It could be as simple as doing a familiar walk at a different time of day or choosing to brush our teeth with a traditional toothbrush rather than our usual electric one (or vice versa). Look out for opportunities to ring the changes in small ways – and by doing that experience the miracle of life more fully.

This is Mindful Monday on 8 February 2021. Join a mindfulness session ‘wintering in lockdown’ on zoom tonight at 7 pm. Simply email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details.

Wonders in tough times?

Be well, including in tough times

We remain in winter. We remain in lockdown. While some have had an initial dose of a vaccine, others wait. Inequalities are widening in the UK and across the world. Those living in war torn and economically destitute countries are badly impacted. Tough times.

Helen Keller was blind and deaf from a young age (tough times). An American, she lived an extraordinarily full life as an author, campaigner and traveller (1880-1968). She wrote, “Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.”

When we look, we too will find wonders in the coming week. Note them. Treasure them.

There is challenge in her words to accept our situation: to be thankful for what we have rather than wanting what we do not have.

The life she lived shows her to be an activist – a campaigner for change – and yet it’s action based on the foundation of contentment in her own situation. Maybe when we are contented we are able to reach out to others – to show love – in a way that we can’t when we focus on achieving more for ourselves.

On first communicating with another person about God, Helen Keller said, “I have always known about God, but until now I didn’t know His name.”

It is in tough times that we may reach out to the Divine. We discover we are loved. We discover contentment.  And then just maybe we too can bring about change; we can begin the journey of learning how to love others as ourselves.

Be well – even in tough times.

This is Mindful Monday on 1 February 2021. Join a virtual evening of mindfulness – with time for individual reflection – on Monday 8 February, 7-8.15 pm (UK). No charge. Email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details.

Extreme wintering

Aligning with nature’s seasons

Live in each season as it passes;
breathe the air,
drink the drink,
taste the fruit,
and resign yourself
to the influence of each.

Henry David Thoreau

For many of us winter may be the hardest season in which to be present; we may be more inclined to be more accepting of Spring, Summer and Autumn.

Winter plus lockdown seem to be taking it to the extreme. We are likely to be even more aware than usual of shorter days, the cold, and the rain – and the sense of isolation (even hibernation) that the season engenders.

It feels rather enforced this winter in the UK. But if we can accept the season as it is – rather than just willing Spring to come – we may find we can benefit from it.

How? Join with nature by slowing down the pace and prioritising rest: this might even mean you find you go to bed earlier and rise later. Sense the season outdoors by looking, smelling, listening and touching to see the changes to nature including on those oh so familiar walks. Eat seasonal foods; there is design in what is in season and the nutrition our bodies need. Be thankful for warmth and shelter – this is easy to do as we move from the outdoors to the indoors at this time of year.

Reflect for you (the unique and special person you are) what the season might be suggesting to you: learn from the season rather than willing it be gone!

This is Mindful Monday on 25 January 2021.

Join with others for an evening of mindfulness at 7-8.15 pm on Monday 8 February. Simply email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details.

This too shall pass

‘This too shall pass’ appears in multiple cultures, including Persian and Jewish. At the heart of the different stories is often a monarch charging his wise men to come up with a sentence that would be true and appropriate in all times and situations.

It remains an apt phrase, consoling us in tough times that whatever our situation there will be brighter days.

When we are joyful, it’s a phrase that reminds us to treasure that time.

Change is indeed a constant. Sometimes we need an extra reminder that grey skies will give way to blue skies.

This is Mindful Monday on 11 January 2021.

To join a virtual mindfulness session on zoom this evening 7-8.15 pm (UK time), simply email hello@essencecheltenham.org.

Are you well?

How are you? Are you well? Common questions we ask one another. Questions we answer truthfully or otherwise, dependent on a host of factors.

At times of tragedy or crisis, the honest answer is miserable. At times of joy, we might report being ecstatic. Then there’s somewhere around the mid-point that might describe the everyday of living: we are neither miserable nor ecstatic but somewhere in between.

Asking and honestly answering the question ‘are you well?’ for ourselves is valuable. We might even see it as a ‘wellness scale’, becoming aware that we would score ourselves differently on any given day.

When the answer is well and truly miserable, we need to reach out for help – to friends, family, colleagues and/or professionals. When our answer is ecstatic, share your joy. But what about the in between place of the everyday? This is where we can routinely take action to nurture our wellbeing.

I bet you are expecting a list now of the things to do to nurture wellbeing. Such lists are all well and good at times but they can appear bland. If I gave you a list, the chances are you (and I) would simply pick something rather randomly from the list – and may be even add it to our ‘to do’ list for the day or week but this isn’t engaging with the unique person that you are.

Take a moment to explore the unique you in relation to wellness. Think back on last year to identify something you did that added to your wellbeing. Explore exactly what it was. Recall how it helped you. Ask yourself if you could build it into your routine for this week, month or year. Reflect on whether there is anything about the activity (or lack of activity!) that you could hone to make it even better in terms of nurturing your wellbeing. Commit to it.

You are now wiser. You can influence – at times at least – where you are on the wellness scale.

Be wise; be well.

This is Mindful Monday on 4 January 2021.

Join a virtual mindfulness gathering on zoom on Monday 11 January at 7 pm. Just email hello@essencheltenham.org for details.