Worry woes or acts of joy?

Worry woes or acts of joy

So many possibilities for our worries. The big picture of the world. Our own insecurities. Our own ineptitude. Our future and the futures of those we love.

We may know that worrying in itself is a road to nowhere. But this knowledge in itself may not stem the ‘worry woes’ that we have become accustomed to court. We continue to walk in the well-worn thought paths of our minds. We are frazzled, drained, joyless.

I came across a great antidote to worry in a poem recently. That antidote is joy; it’s choosing to turn from the ‘worry woes’ and instead choosing an act of joy.

Here’s the closing part of ‘I worried’ by Mary Oliver (2010, published by Beacon Press in Swan: Poems and Prose Poems):

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.

And I gave it up. And took my old body

And went out into the morning

and sang.

Is this just a temporary dismissal of our worries that will only once more come to haunt us? No. When we focus on what is good (or joyful), it gives us the energy to deal with things that are of concern to us. It puts us in a better place for dealing with life, including the difficult.

Let us acknowledge our worries. But let us also identify what gives us joy and be joyful.

This is Mindful Monday on 25 May 2020.

 Join Sara Shailer for a zoom mindfulness session at 10.30 am today. Simply email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details (before 10 am).

Be kind

be kind

In lockdown (or lockdown plus slight uplift in the UK) we might be concerned to be kind to others. According to your situation, you might be courteous to give others space when you are out and about, or shop for others, or keep in touch particularly with those in solo households, or put your all into providing for others as a keyworker. Valuable stuff. Well done.

It’s mental health awareness week. I like the emphasis on kindness. I have learned from experience that there is a relationship between kindness and happiness.

It is one of those strange words, kindness. We don’t use it every day. We know what it means and yet it is hard to define. I looked it up in the Oxford English Dictionary (as you do). It reveals it is the quality of being kind. (This made me chuckle so the search was in fact entirely worthwhile!)

There’s a place in an ancient book where it reads, ‘Let your kindness be evident to all’. The ancient book wasn’t written in English so some translations have instead ‘Let your gentleness be evident to all.’ That seems a fair definition. Gentleness.

Be kind. Be gentle. Learn to be kind to yourself. Be gentle towards yourself.

We are all living in unusual circumstances. We will have different pressures according to our situations but we haven’t experienced them before. We are learning how to cope. We are learning how to survive. Could we even learn how to thrive?

It is impossible to love others until we (hesitantly) love ourselves. I wonder if it is hard to be kind to others until we (hesitantly) practice kindness to ourselves.

What would being kind to you look like today?

Here’s a range of things, one of which may resonate with you: take time to listen to yourself perhaps writing down what you hear to reflect further; turn off the ‘other voices’ in social media and broadcast media to give yourself space, even a time of rest; do something you enjoy – dancing in the kitchen to your favourite track could be just the thing; immerse yourself in the natural world even for just five minutes.

Be kind to yourself. Then be kind to others. Don’t just survive, thrive.

This is Thoughtful Thursday on 21 May 2020.

Join Sara Shailer for a virtual session of mindfulness on zoom at 10.30 am on Monday 25 May (bank holiday in the UK). Email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details.



Taste the difference

savour each mouthful

Meals can be focal points for our day – and this may be even more the case than usual in lockdown.

We can eat our food without noticing. Our plate is cleared or the packet empty before we know it! We can make it a richer experience by savouring each mouthful. This might mean switching off the TV or turning our attention away from other distractions. If we are sharing the meal with others in our household it might mean getting everyone involved in the ‘noticing’.

Look at and smell the food. As you bring it to your mouth, notice how your mouth salivates in readiness to receive it. As you put the food in your mouth notice the texture as well as the taste. Chew each mouthful before you swallow.

As we notice our food, we may also find we grow in appreciation of all those who were involved in getting it to us: farmers, pickers, factory workers, drivers, market traders, and retail workers. Well done if you grow at least some of your own food: appreciate those who developed the best of seeds and agricultural best practice. Expertise and hours of work went into providing us with each meal.

Let’s be thankful: for each mouthful we eat and for the people who brought it to us. Bon appetit!

This is Mindful Monday on 17 May 2020.

Join Sara Shailer for a virtual mindfulness session on zoom at 10.30 am on Monday 25 May. Simply use Facebook (essencecheltenham) or email hello@essencecheltenham.org.





Considering everything, how happy are you today?

Don’t despair if you rated yourself as not happy. All things change and there will be a day when you will rate yourself otherwise.

There are things we can do to move towards becoming happier. We are all individuals so one size doesn’t fit all. But understanding ourselves is part of the journey and a good place to start. Wherever you put yourself on the happiness scale today, ask ‘What makes me truly happy?’

Skip the glib answers about winning the lottery or marrying royalty.

You might want to mull your answers to that question over a few days.

And then what? “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” (Dalai Lama) Over to you.

This is Thoughtful Thursday on 14 May 2020.

Join on zoom for a virtual mindfulness session at 10.30 am on Monday 25 May (bank holiday in the UK). Email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details.

Impatient like me?

adopt the pace of nature_ her secret is patience

I am impatient. I want to know if I can go on holiday in the UK in a couple of months. I don’t have the answer.

Are you too impatient? Is it about a particular situation, another person or yourself?

Some of us are able to spend more time looking at nature now. We know that spending time in nature is good for our mental wellbeing – and even looking at photos or watching videos of nature seem to have the same positive influence.

I came across this quotation (from American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson) and plan to meditate on it. There is wisdom within it.

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

This is Mindful Monday on 11 May 2020. Join us for a virtual mindfulness session on zoom at 10.30 am. Email hello@essencecheltenham.org for the details.

Special you


You are unique. No-body else looks and thinks exactly like you – even identical twins have different experiences and fingerprints. You are unique; you have a unique perspective.

You are valuable – a sample of one tends to add value! You have a value just for being you. I am sure you play your part in making the world a better place. But even if you didn’t – or couldn’t – you are of high worth. Why? Because you are you. Simply that.

I was sad this week when I heard that someone furloughed from their employment felt that this indicates their low worth. I hope their employer genuinely wants to retain their skills for the long term. But even if they didn’t – or couldn’t – that person is still of high worth. Employed or unemployed, furloughed or working, key worker or not a key worker, retired or working – whatever – you are valuable.

Pause with me. Re-affirm: ‘I am unique.’ ‘I am valuable.’ ‘I am special.’

This is Thoughtful Thursday on 7 May 2020. Join Sara Shailer for a zoom mindfulness session at 10.30 am on Monday 11 May. Email hello@essencecheltenham.org to book your place and receive the details to join.

A vital skill

Lockdown hair_

Image of Albert Einstein by Jackie Ramirez from Pixabay – with text subsequently added

We live in unusual times. We are the same but uncertainty has skyrocketed. And booking a hair cut is simply not possible!

There is value in something we can practice in the unusual and the usual times – and that is curiosity.

Being curious is a vital skill. Ask questions about yourself, others, structures, the world, the cosmos. Ask them of yourself. Ask them of others. Seek to gain knowledge.

Albert Einstein, the great physicist, is attributed as saying, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

Whatever your questions during lockdown, ask them. You may be pondering the big questions of life or the small questions of day-to-day living. Or a blend of the two.

A couple of YouTube videos have helped me in the past week with questions of day-to-day living including ‘how to cut hair’. Doubtless you have googled a few questions too.

Seeing plants shooting up in the spring sunshine and showers have served for me as expressions of hope. I have even marked one plant on the fence to track its progress!

We know we don’t have all the answers. But join me in being curious this week. You never know where it might lead.

As always, it is of course your choice. To cut or not to cut?

This is Mindful Monday on 4 May 2020.

Join a zoom mindfulness session at 10.30 am on Monday 11 May – just email hello@essencecheltenham.org to receive a link.