Riding the wave


The soundtrack is Beach Boys’ Surfin Safari. Seemingly effortlessly, you surf the ocean waves.

As someone who once tried windsurfing and spent far more time lying actually on top of the sail looking at the fishes than standing on the board, this is an appealing image!

I came across a mindfulness concept to help us respond differently to cravings or urges we might have, not giving into them but also not going into full battle mode. As you may know, fighting our cravings doesn’t always work. And yet we want to make a choice, to practice self control and not give into them.

The idea is to acknowledge the craving or urge, seeing it as a wave. The urge can increase in intensity; the urge can decrease in intensity – like a wave. But like a wave it will eventually dissipate.

And where are you in this picture? You are the surfer, riding the wave, gliding on your surf board. You are not fighting the wave and not giving into the wave. You are acknowledging it and staying with it as long as necessary.

We can make a choice to go with the wave, stay on top of it, surf it. We don’t have to act upon the craving or urge; we just acknowledge it and stay with it for as long as it lasts.

As we do this, perhaps imagining our breath as our surfboard, we can explore behind the craving or the urge. Gently and kindly, we can ask ourselves what the deeper need is inside us of which the craving or urge is a symptom.

We used this mindfulness concept – surfing the urge – at a recent mindfulness event in Cheltenham on the theme of self-control, enjoying watching a surfing video (you know the soundtrack!) and then using it in a meditation.

Afterwards we spent some time reflecting individually on what might be vulnerabilities in our self-image and what facts we might use – perhaps a daily mantra? – to put ourselves on a firmer footing. Then when a craving or urge strikes perhaps the wave will not be so high or last quite so long – and we will ride that wave!

In my private reflections I settled on a mantra which starts ‘God loves me.’ It went on with another phrase but those three words are so profound it might take me a life time before I am ready to – or need to – move on.

This is Mindful Monday on 20 May 2019.

If you live in Cheltenham or nearby, see here for details of forthcoming events – and get in touch to know more.





When we think of getting rich, we might imagine winning the lottery, discovering an unexpected inheritance or getting a highly paid job.

I got rich the other week.

I met up with a group of four friends whom I first got to know over a decade ago. We met on a mindfulness pain-management course at Gloucester hospital. Changes in geography and work/life commitments meant we hadn’t all met as a group for around four years, although some of us were able to keep in more regular contact.

And I knew I was rich. Rich to be accepted as I am. Rich to hear of life happenings from day-to-day matters to major changes. Rich to be listened to with interest. Rich to laugh together. Rich to celebrate together. Rich to commiserate together. Very rich indeed.

I realised after we had met that I hadn’t taken a photo of the occasion. But you know there is a joy from simple friendship that is imprinted deep within.

May you too find riches in your week. Pause to notice just how rich you are!

This is Mindful Monday on 13 May 2019. If you live in Cheltenham or nearby, join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening of mindfulness tomorrow, Tuesday 14 May 2019,
7.30-9 pm.




When we first think of being controlled, we might think of despotic regimes or dystopias where we don’t have freedom to make our own choices. A negative, fearful picture.

But here I am thinking of being controlled in the sense of exercising our freedom to make our own choices, or – put another way – practicing self-control. Being self-controlled is about deciding how we want to behave and then doing so. A positive, freeing picture.

We can make a choice NOT to do or have something because we believe it will be beneficial. Some of us may make a choice to limit our food intake (to maintain or lose weight) or our screen time (to turn our attention to those around us). Recently in the season of Lent, Christians may have ‘given up’ something they enjoy. Now in the Muslim season of Ramadan, Muslims may give up food and drink between dawn and sunset.  In doing this, both Christians and Muslims show their desire to draw closer to God.

We can also make a choice to do or have something. Take exercise as an example. We can practise self control when we make a choice to walk rather than get the bus or drive.

It is a positive picture of self-control – whether it is to do something or not to do something – but that doesn’t make it easy!

Look out today. Notice when you have a choice. Consider what the benefit of a particular choice would be. Would practicing self-control help you or someone else in body, mind or spirit? When we recognise the benefit – the result of – a particular choice, it will help us to be self-controlled – sometimes at least!

This is Mindful Monday on 6 May 2019.

If you live in or near Cheltenham, join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening of mindfulness on this theme of growing in self-control on Tuesday 14 May, 7.30-9 pm at the Oasis. Book your place by emailing hello@essencecheltenham.org




Face the feeling

open the door

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.” (Many a person is attributed with this saying and variants upon it!)

As we practice being mindful, we are essentially increasing our awareness that the present moment is indeed what there is. We recall the past in the present, we project the future in the present.

When the present moment is rosy and sunny, it makes sense to want to be in that moment. Even to bask in it. Get out the deck chair, drink it in!

But what about when the present moment is far from wonderful? We may be feeling down, anxious, angry, unsettled, in pain . . .  It is understandable that we want to get rid of these unpleasant emotions and sensations, to run away, to shut the door on them.

It is counter-intuitive but as we open ourselves to our unpleasant emotions and sensations – entertain them even with kindness and curiosity – sometimes they will dissipate.

Other times they won’t dissipate but by facing them we save the energy we have been wasting by fighting them!

We need to (gently) acknowledge what is. It is hard to do this. It can feel like cautiously opening a door we have fought to keep shut. It is however always a relief. And it is the strangest thing but in that respite from fighting there can be the beginnings of peace amidst what is.

This is Mindful Monday on 29 April 2019.

If you live in or near Cheltenham, join Julie Hill and Sara Shailer for an evening of mindfulness on the theme of ‘growing in self-control’ in a few weeks time on Tuesday 14 May 2019.


Love divine


A blue-sky bank holiday weekend! Stunning! Unexpected! Glorious!

I bumped into a friend this Easter weekend. She is grieving for her mother who died a few months ago. She shared how lonely the grieving process can be, as we each grieve in our own time and ways – and therefore out of kilter with others in our families or friendship group who are also grieving.

It is sunny but the weather inside us may be very different.

For me Good Friday and then Easter Sunday are of great significance. They remind me of love, a depth of love in fact beyond my imagining so I catch just a glimpse. Good Friday when a Father and a Son were separated – death. Easter Sunday when grieving friends of Jesus were afraid and then amazed – life. A story of love, a powerful love, with as many different emotions in it as we have weathers!

Easter may or may not be significant for you. But love, I am sure, is.

As we each recall, seek out and show love, we all share in something stunning, often unexpected and glorious.

Whatever the weather inside, allow yourself to remember those who have loved you, seek out those who love you now, and show love to others, the stranger and the friend.

For me, as we each do this, we experience something of the divine among us. Love divine.

This is Mindful Monday on 22 April 2019.

Join Julie Hill and Sara Shailer for an evening of mindfulness on the theme of growing in self-control at the Oasis in Cheltenham on Tuesday 14 May. Book your place ahead so we can prepare the space appropriately!

Be thankful

Be thankful

Enjoy this poem that I just came across. It challenges our pre-conceptions of what we might practice being thankful for!

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire.
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something,
for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times, you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations,
because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge,
because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes.
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary,
because it means you’ve made a difference.

It’s easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfilment comes to those
who are also thankful for the setbacks.

Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,
and they can become your blessings.


I am going to keep the poem with me this week.

I am looking ahead to Sunday, a celebration of Easter for me. In the lead up to the finale of the Easter story of Jesus resurrected – an event for which I am truly thankful – there are many setbacks and challenges. I will seek to be thankful for these too.

This is Mindful Monday on 15 April 2019.

Join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening of mindfulness on the theme of growing in self-control on Tuesday 14 May 2019. Book by emailing hello@essencecheltenham.org




Just a moment. A short moment. A very short moment.



As we explored growing in patience at an evening of mindfulness recently, the pause proved important! We can use awareness of our breath – perhaps consciously counting three breaths; perhaps doing ‘a mindful minute’ meditation – to create that pause. There is power in that pause.

As we pause, a menu of options will appear. We will have more choices.

Why the tulips? Beauty also makes us pause. As pause we marvel at what we see. It refreshes us and gives us a different perspective.

This is Mindful Monday on 8 April 2019.

Join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening on growing in self control in May.