Step by step

Pace yourself

Pacing ourselves isn’t easy.

It can be a challenge to plan how to do tasks in such a way that we are not stressed by them i.e. we schedule doing a task for when we have enough time and energy.

It can be an even bigger challenge to decide whether we are up to tackling a particular task in the first place. We may identify something as a ‘must do’ task when in fact it is a ‘nice to do if time/energy’ task.

Pacing becomes vital – and yet somehow more difficult! – at times when we are unwell, including experiencing increased physical pain or poor mental health.

So what helps us pace ourselves well?

Prioritise self care. Doing this will in fact put us in the best place to also care for others. It’s one of those ‘about face’ things!

Review the ‘must do’ tasks to identify those that we can move out of the ‘must do’. Sometimes we need help from a friend to do this. Alternatively, writing down what we are trying to do in a list can enable us to then revisit that list and identify those tasks that are essential to do and those that are not – we may find none of them are when we see them in black and white!

Learning to pace ourselves – in different situations and phases of our lives – is a life skill. Let’s keep learning. What we learn will help us journey towards being contented in all circumstances.

This is Mindful Monday on 16 August 2021.

Day after day

Discipline, day after day

Whether you are a committed sports fan or not, you can’t avoid sport in the UK at the moment. Alongside millions, I have been watching great sportspeople perform at massive sports events. (And yes, you win some and you lose some!)

Behind each event are sportspeople who have trained, day after day. Without the crowds. Without competition adrenaline. Without sure reward.

Let’s share the joy (and the pain) of these events. Let’s also note the discipline.

Is there something you would love to achieve or do? Mindfulness is about living in the present but it is also about planning for the future, taking actions in the present which increase the likelihood of something happening in the future.

These sportspeople train each day with a future win in mind. Is there something you need to do each day to prepare for a better present and future? Sure we can’t always win but we can influence being well placed!

This is Mindful Monday on 12 July 2021.

Focus. Be happy.

Multi-tasking? Stop. Focus. Be happy.

In mindfulness, there is often a focus on ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ – an encouragement to ‘just be’. And yet mindfulness is equally relevant to when we are doing something, not just being.

We can practice giving our complete attention to whatever we are doing, whether it is something we enjoy or not. Did you notice the word ‘practice’? That’s because we have to remind ourselves to give our complete attention – we need to practice doing it because it takes practice – and we need to treat ourselves with kindness while we practice rather than beating ourselves up when we forget.

Brushing your teeth? Give it your complete attention. Stacking the dishwasher? Give it your complete attention. Typing an email? Give it your complete attention. Talking to a friend? Give them your complete attention. Going for a walk? Give it your complete attention. As you give something your complete attention, you will amazed what you notice, how you use your senses.

As we give full attention to whatever we’re doing – which psychologists sometimes call ‘living in a state of flow’ – we may find a sense of contentment or happiness. And that encourages us to keep going in the practice of mindfulness – in what we are doing as well as just being.

Ah yes, multi-tasking. Ditch it. Give your full attention to whatever you’re doing. You’ll be the happier for it.

This is Mindful Monday on 5 July 2021.

Break the routine

Break the routine

We can boost our awareness of ourselves and what is around us by choosing to break our usual routines. In the routine we are used to, we will notice less; we will think our ‘usual’ thoughts.

Holidays naturally create new patterns and new locations. But, not on holiday, we can choose to break our usual routines and benefit from being more aware.

Often when we break our routine, we will notice more good things that encourage and energise us, as well as new thoughts that can take us to more creative spaces.

Try a change; observe what new things you notice!

This is Mindful Monday on 21 June 2021.

Like a child

Like a child . . .

One of my childhood associations is eating a cold ice lolly on a hot day.

I found a treasure trove of different lollies recently made to be reminiscent of childhood sweets: Fruit Salads, Sherbet Dib Dabs, Nougat, Cola Bottles, Black Jacks. It is good to recall a positive simple memory from childhood and I am enjoying repeating the experience!

I can still really immerse myself in enjoying eating an ice lolly on a hot day. It is a simple pleasure. It uses all my senses.

Sometimes children seem to naturally be more mindful – be fully immersed in a moment – using all their senses.

Let the child in you live on. Enjoy a simple pleasure. Immerse yourself fully in it. There is a simplicity in the moment that you will relish.

This is Mindful Monday on 14 June 2021. Join a session of mindfulness in the outdoors on 15 June, 4.30-6 pm. Email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details.

Time to be

Stand and stare

As we begin to come out of lockdown, a common literary joke in my household is ‘tubby or not tubby’! Many of us may be seeking to start to live a more active life (but remember to be kind to yourself!). And let’s not lose the joy of just being and observing, particularly as the pace of life starts to increase.

This poem says it all!

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.


By Wm. Henry Davies

This is Mindful Monday @ essencecheltenham.org on 31 May 2021.

Be still . . .

Be still . . .

What is mindfulness? It’s about becoming more aware and living life more fully.

At times, we can almost sleep walk through life – a small example is drinking a cup of tea without noticing, to the degree that we are surprised when we look into the mug and find it empty!

Mindfulness can help us to perceive better, see better, think better, hear better – and even become more aware of what we eat and drink, so taste better! It helps us to be more aware of ourselves, others and the world around us. And as we become more aware, we can choose to open ourselves not just to the physical, emotional and rational in life but also to the spiritual, if we choose.

Someone who knows of my Christian faith asked me this week how mindfulness relates to it. My answer is, it relates entirely!

There is a story of Jesus seeking a friend’s attention, and not that friend’s frenetic activity. The friend’s name was Martha. My sense is Jesus wanted to know Martha as the ‘human being’ she was, not as a ‘human doing’ lost in endless activity! Like Martha, we can find it hard to stop, to simply be and learn to listen. Mindfulness can teach us how to quieten ourselves, to physically stop and ‘lay down’ our thoughts and emotions. These lessons help me to prepare myself to simply be present with God’s Spirit.

There is another story of Jesus telling his friends to step away from the busyness and come to a quiet place. I often find refreshment as I intentionally set time aside to be quiet. And greater awareness of myself through the practice of mindfulness helps me to know when I need to do this. It seems a part of a divine design.

There is an instruction in ancient Christian poetic Scriptures, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’. Written long ago but so relevant: we seem to function better if we can learn to be still, to pause, to take a break. But there is more: as we still ourselves, we can choose to open ourselves to the possibility of drawing close to God, whether we have a strong belief in God or whether we are unsure what we believe.

Mindfulness has benefits for anyone and everyone, whether we have a faith or not. Practicing awareness of ourselves, others and the world all around us is a worthwhile life-long journey, regardless of who we are. But it is my experience that it is also helpful in coming into an awareness of the reality of God’s presence.

Journey well as you too seek just to ‘be’.

This is Mindful Monday on 24 May 2021.