The miracle of life

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“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

This quotation is attributed to the physicist Albert Einstein – and whatever your science knowledge or your faith experience, it is an interesting expression of the choices we make as we live our lives.

This week I plan to be conscious of the miracle in each day. Join me.

And the azaleas? They are the miracle in my garden this week: untended by me and as a miracle of nature, they are blooming!

This is Mindful Monday on 21 May 2018.

If you live near or in Cheltenham, join Julie Hill and Sara Shailer for an evening of mindfulness on Monday 25 June 2018.

Listening to yourself

Listening to yourself

Do you ever have the same thoughts going round and round in your head? And do they seem impossible to get away from? Really annoying you? Stopping you living in the present moment – and certainly seeming to interrupt times for meditation or just being?

We can ‘battle’ with our thoughts. It can feel like a full-on war zone.

A core attitude behind mindfulness – living in the present moment – is acceptance. By acceptance, I don’t mean resignation; I am not suggesting ‘if you thoughts keep churning round and round in your head, just live with them.’ Instead by acceptance, I mean acknowledging your thoughts. Other ways of saying it would be noting your thoughts, observing your thoughts, labelling your thoughts, or experiencing your thoughts. Accept that your mind has thoughts. This means accepting that you have thoughts instead of criticising yourself for having thoughts – not always an easy step.

So acknowledge the specific thoughts that you have. It can help to actually write them down as part of the experience of acknowledging them.

Now take another step, be curious about your thoughts. Examine them. You might ask of a specific thought, ‘When did I first start thinking this?’, ‘What triggered me thinking about it?’ ‘Is it an uncomfortable thought or a reassuring thought?’ I have found two questions particularly helpful in examining a specific thought: 1) ‘Is it true?’ 2) ‘Is it useful?’

We can adopt thoughts that are untrue. For example, we might think ‘I am a lousy person’  or some variant on that theme. Sometimes we need others to help us explore whether a thought is true or not – and as we explore we will find that we do indeed adopt some thoughts that are not true. Recognising a thought as untrue is key to changing your experience.

We can also allow thoughts to continue that are frankly useless to us. For example, we could choose to entertain a thought like ‘She/he doesn’t like me’. It may meet the truth test but does it actually get you anywhere? You may have tried to engage with that person and for reasons you don’t understand they remain cool towards you. It may be time to accept – to acknowledge – the situation. As you do this you will find your experience of that thought can change. You will begin the journey from a constant nagging thought of not being liked, to a place of acceptance where you can even set that thought to one side.

This is Mindful Monday on 14 May 2018.

Join Julie Hill and Sara Shailer tonight for an evening of mindfulness – on the theme of listening – at the Oasis Centre in Cheltenham. Please let us know you are coming so we can prepare the space for the right number of people.

 

Listen

bluebells

The sounds not the view

Our eyes are quick to see a beautiful view. And today the bluebells on the lower reaches of Cleeve Hill on the outskirts of Cheltenham are an absolute picture.

It is not only a sunny day but it is also an unusually warm day. The sweet smell of the bluebells was really strong when I was there just now. A really sweet perfume filling the woodland.

So often our eyes and perhaps our noses take in our surroundings – but we fail to notice the sounds. Our ears are one of our five senses and yet we may find it hard to listen, to be aware of the sounds around us.

Sometimes the sounds are captivating – like the woodland on this warm sunny day  – you can hear it here.  Sometimes the sounds around us may be less captivating or neutral or even distressing for us. Either way we can be aware: we can hear; we can listen.

As we practice listening, we can become more aware of our own thoughts and emotions, our bodies, and our spirits.

This is Mindful Monday on 7 May 2018.

Join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening of mindfulness at the Oasis in Cheltenham on the theme of listening next Monday 14 May 7.30-9 pm.

Please book your place so we can prepare the space for the right number of people. There is no charge but a donation of between £3 and £6 towards room hire is welcome, if you are able.

 

New growth

 

new growth

Just look and see. Look at creation bursting forth all around us – and see the new growth. Pause, look and see.

Trees are all of a sudden in leaf – here in the South West of England anyway.  Plants are putting out new growth. A few flowers are blooming. And yes the weeds are shooting up too!

Look and see. Pause, look and see. And as you do, you will find encouragement.

It sounds too simplistic. And yet as we look at new growth in creation there is something in our spirits which is restored. There is hope all around us  in the created world – and within us as we practice being aware of that created world.

This is Mindful Monday on 30 April 2018. If you live in Cheltenham or nearby join us for an evening of mindfulness on Monday 14 May, 7.30-9 pm.

In the dark

Dark beneath the surface

We can sometimes feel like we are in the dark, in a dormant place. We might sense we have potential and yet the season of our lives seems to be unproductive.

We met for an evening of mindfulness last Monday, including reflecting on the life-cycle of a flowering bulb.

We notice all the Spring bulbs when they are flowering but that is a short time in the overall annual cycle. They have been dormant in the ground during autumn, they have been in cool weather over the winter establishing roots – nothing to show above the surface. The winter is an important season when – in the dark, below the surface – the bulb can put down its roots. And then after flowering in the Spring, the leaves dry out and send nutrients to the bulb with the flowering forming in the bulb once again.

The bloom is evident for a short while but preparations are happening for that time throughout the year.

What’s the point? We too need to rest at times, to be dormant. We too need to be nurtured – sometimes in a dark place even! – to put down a good root system. Don’t shun these seasons but embrace them. For it is from them that there is healthy growth – and we bloom.

This is Mindful Monday on 23 April 2018. If you live in Cheltenham or the surrounding area join us for an evening of mindfulness on Monday 14 May 7.30-9 pm.

To notice (to live)

Take time to notice - to turn at Beauty's glance,And watch her feet, how they can dance.Like me, you may be starting out on a week full of a range of commitments. Or indeed you may be starting out on a week that looks a little blank, lacking in specific commitments.

It is interesting that whether we would describe the week ahead as busy or way too quiet, the temptation is still the same. It is the temptation to miss the moment and fail to actually be – for the hours and days to pass us by in a blur while failing to actually live.

It takes effort to notice, to be aware – of ourselves, of others, of all that is around us, and perhaps even of God – but when we do, we start to be, to exist, to live.

I love this poem by Henry William Davies. I first came across it in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral way back when. It reminds me – whatever the schedule busy or light – to pause and notice. Nature can really help us to pause and notice but we can pause and notice throughout our days in our interactions with others, in the food and drink we have, in our thoughts and emotions, in our hopes, in our very breath. Take time to ‘stare’ – to look – and be enriched.

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.

This is Mindful Monday on 16 April 2018 @ essencecheltenham.org

If you live in Cheltenham or nearby, join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening of mindfulness tonight at the Oasis, 7.30-9 pm.

Managing emotions mindfully

It is tricky dealing with emotions!

We want things to be sweetness and light – and who wouldn’t?

Mindfulness – or being aware – doesn’t promise that all will be sweet. Shame!

However, being mindful helps us to be more aware of what is happening within us and around us, including with our emotions.

If we can observe more and react just a little less (hard I know!), we can begin to manage our emotions. By recognising them head on, just as they are, we get a head start with dealing with them. Simply avoiding recognising our emotions tends to just keep them simmering rather causing them to go away.

A poet called Rumi wrote this poem called ‘The guest house’ over 800 years ago, wise words still today about being aware of – perhaps even welcoming? – our emotions. It is a wise starting point in managing them.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness
comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

This is Mindful Monday on 9 April 2018. If you live in or near Cheltenham, join us for an evening of mindfulness next Monday 16 April, 7.30-9 pm.