Love in the midst

Love amidst . . .

Life is such a mix: the everyday good and bad; the moments of joy and pain.

I am a Christian. With many other Christians around the world I am once again exploring the Easter story. Wow there is pain in the story. Wow there is joy in the story.

In the midst, there is love. It is love that makes sense of the pain and the joy. It’s a story of God giving his precious son (pain). Why? Because of love. And what for? For life (joy).

Regardless of whether we profess a faith or not, we may sense a truth in how love – mysteriously – makes sense of the joy and the pain. Somethings are beyond words – and mine are clumsy. In the midst, may you know love.

Get wise(r)

A year into lockdown, it still feels that there are many different worlds. These are not based on the geography of where we live.

Rather the worlds are shaped by a myriad of things like the make-up of our household, the demands (or otherwise) on our skills and our time, our sense of financial security (or otherwise) – and most fundamentally the wellbeing – or otherwise – of ourselves and those we love.

We may not have any choice over the situations we are in, but we can learn to respond to them as skilfully as possible.

Learning how to pace ourselves in whatever situation we find ourselves is a vital skill. It’s a lifetime of learning.

Take a minute today, sitting or walking, to notice messages your body is giving you. Our physical make-up tells us so much, if only we will pause to hear.

Listen to these messages, with gentleness. Don’t judge yourself. Accept what you find.

Just by noticing – listening – you will be the wiser; you will be better equipped to approach whatever situation you find yourself in today.

And when we take a step forward in listening to ourselves, it may actually equip us to better hear other people. It may also equip us to recognise the voice of our creator in what we hear. We are wonderfully made, with feedback loops that tell us how to pace ourselves.

Peaceful?

Peaceful?

Peaceful. Calm. Tranquil.

It’s an attractive place to be. None of us would probably claim to be there most of the time but we probably catch glimpses now and then.

Sometimes arriving at a place of peace isn’t a ‘non-doing’, resting process but one of action. Martin Luther King said, ‘True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.’

There are some things in life that we can do nothing to influence. When we accept this and let them go – as best we can – we may find peace.

There are other things in life that we accept as reality but also identify that we need to act – do something – to change them.

It’s a life’s journey separating the two, which is why Niebuhr’s serenity prayer remains relevant:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

Join a virtual evening of mindfulness tonight 8 March 2021 at 7 pm (UK time) on the theme of acceptance and change. Email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details.

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.