It will pass

weathers

I was fortunate enough to be by the sea last week, a joy indeed as lockdown begins to lift.

I watched the colours and sound of the waves change each day, through all weathers.

Watching the sea reminded me that we too go through all weathers. There are times when we are happy; there are times when we are sad. There are times when our circumstances are comfortable; there are times when our circumstances are uncomfortable.

If you feel grey today, look at nature and remember that it will pass. The clouds and the rain will clear and the sun will come out. In the sunshine? Bask in it!

This is Mindful Monday on 13 July. Look out for details of our next gathering later in July.

Feel like curling up?

Feel like curling up_

Change is in the air: some of it we welcome; some of it we fear; some of it we oscillate between welcome and fear.

Personally I am not sure whether to welcome or fear an impending haircut: the hairdresser may not like the ‘interim cut’ approach my household has adopted but I would welcome a professional pair of scissors!

We want to be resilient. We want to cope. We’d even like to grow in the process. But it isn’t easy.

Facing change can cause us to withdraw from others – almost to curl up in ourselves in an act of self-protection. And yet this actually reduces our resilience!

To build our own resilience, we need to care and connect with others. We need to set our own experience within the experience of others, appreciating a common humanity amidst all our differences. This will give us perspective; it will also give us joy, an antidote to fear.

If you feel like curling up in an act of self-protection, recognise it, not critically but with kindness to yourself.

And then take a risk. Be intentional about showing care to someone else. What can you plan to do for whom and when? It doesn’t need to be a grand gesture – it may be a smile and a friendly word across the garden fence; it may be truly listening to a friend.

Be intentional in your action. Also, be intentional in noticing the impact of that action on you. You may find you ‘uncurl’ a little bit; you are stronger.

Your view of you

your view of you (2)

I shared last week on a golden rule for living accepted across religions and cultures: ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’. Or in more up-to-date language: ‘Treat everyone you meet as if they were you’ (see here for that post).

Reflecting on the golden rule has made me think about how we treat or view ourselves. If our own view of ourselves (our self-image) is poor, are we likely inadvertently to treat others poorly? Equally we don’t want to think of ourselves too highly; we don’t want to be arrogant. We might then treat others poorly because we think of ourselves as better than them!

It seems that a healthy view of ourselves is ideal for the golden rule to work. But what is a healthy view? Based on what?

Some say love is blind. I am not convinced. My sense is that love is accepting (not blind). When we truly love someone we seek to accept them as they are, faults and all.

Knowing that we are loved is part of developing a healthy view of ourselves. But while some of us may have loving friends and family, some of us won’t.

For me, there is a love above all loves. It is the love of the Creator who made each of us; it’s love divine. It makes me and you children of God, loved with our faults and all.

You may or may not share my belief but it keeps me on a journey of learning how to better treat others – others who are also children of God – loved as I am loved.

Notice what influences you in how you see yourself – and how that makes you interpret the golden rule for living.

This is Mindful Monday on 29 June 2020.

 

Golden rule for living?

Golden rule for living

Is there a golden rule for living? If so, what is it?

In a virtual mindfulness session last week, a participant shared what does indeed seem to be a golden rule: ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’

You can put the rule positively as the participant did. Or you can put it negatively i.e. ‘Do not do to others as you wouldn’t want done to you.’ Or you could express it responsively ‘What you do to others, will be done to you’.

An updated expression might read ‘Treat everyone you meet as if they were you’. And as with all the expressions there is an assumption of a healthy self-image.

The participant commented that it came from the Bible. Indeed it does. It is part of Judaism and Christianity. It is actually also part of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Confusianism – and Humanism, to name a few religions and a culture.

Mindfulness is simply practicing awareness of ourselves, others and all that surrounds us. As you notice your actions today (and the thoughts that preceded those actions), reflect on them in the light of this golden rule.

Enjoy your discovery; don’t beat yourself up. There’s gold in the discovery.

 

 

 

A little bit

A little bit of good

I always enjoy Desmond Tutu. It is rare he doesn’t have a smile on his face – and it is a warm and wonderful smile. He would be one of my ‘amazing people to meet’!

Desmond Tutu was an anti-apartheid and human rights activist, including standing up for gay rights within the Anglican church community.

As he stepped down from being Archbishop of Cape Town, he spent two years as part of the Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa, investigating human rights abuses and seeking a process of reconciliation through confession, forgiveness and restitution.

He also became a good friend of the Dalai Lama – and loves football.

Although ‘retired’ he is still active in engaging, commenting recently in relation to the Black Lives Matter campaign: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Here is a person who is humble, relates to others with kindness – and has achieved so much.

A life motto I have held (aspirationally!) since I was a teenager and first came across it is “Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God”. Desmond Tutu seems a great example of living this out.

I came across another life motto attributed to him: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

I love that combination of the small and the big picture! In each of our small ways we too can do a little bit.

This is Thoughtful Thursday on 18 June 2020.

Join me for a virtual mindfulness session on zoom on Monday 29 June, 10.30 am. Email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details.

 

What’s your motto for living?

A motto to live by

A motto is usually short – and memorable. We can each have our own motto which sums up how we live.

Because each of us is unique, we will have our own individual spin on a motto with which others might also identify.

What might the Queen’s motto might be? Could it be “duty first”? You might identify with that or one of the following: “live and let live”, “keep calm and carry on”, “be yourself – everyone else is taken”, “every cloud has a silver lining”, “tomorrow is another day”, “do to others as you would have them do to you”, “smile and the world smiles with you”.

Once we have identified our motto, we can look at the reality of our day-to-day experience. Does our motto show in how we behave each day? Would others guess our motto from what they see of us? If not, our motto is aspirational. It is how we want to live but don’t (yet). Becoming aware of this is useful: we know the direction in which we want to go.

It is possible that when we identify ‘our’ motto, it is actually negative destructive thinking. What if, for example, we decide the motto we are living by is “each new day is another chance to fail”? Painful as this would be, it would still be useful. Once we identify destructive thinking, we have a chance to change it.

Mindfulness is all about noticing. Knowing what influences how we live – or want to live – is gold.

What’s your motto to live by? Actual or aspirational? Healthy or unhealthy? Changed in lockdown or consistent?

This is Mindful Monday on 15 June 2020.

To join a zoom mindfulness session at 10.30 am today, email hello@cheltenhamessence.org for the details.

 

Breathe deep

Like a belly laugh_

Breathe. Actually we don’t need to be told to breathe. As long as we live, we breathe. It happens naturally.

We can learn to use our breath for our wellbeing, physically, emotionally and even spiritually. You can see how to use your breath to help you get to sleep here. You can see how to use a three-minute portable breath mediation for when you are frazzled here. And you can see how our breath can remind us of our very creation as we choose to breath in the Spirit of God here.

Some of us may feel stressed as we start to circulate a little more as the lockdown begins to change in the UK. Some of us will have been self-isolating for 12 weeks – and the experience of being out and about, however cautiously, may bring anxiety. Whatever your life situation, this is a an exercise you can do in less than a minute to reduce anxiety when it comes.

You can be in any comfortable position, sitting, lying down or standing. If you choose to stand, spread your legs apart as far as your hips for good balance.

Put one hand on your belly (just below the bottom of your ribs) and the other hand on your chest.

Take a deep breathe in through your nose and feel your belly push your hand out. On a  deep breath your chest won’t move but your belly will.

Breathe out through pursued lips, noticing that the hand on your belly goes in. Imagine your hand helping you push the air out of your lungs.

Do this for about 10 breaths. Notice how you feel.

This is Thoughtful Thursday on 11 June 2020.

Join others for a facilitated mindfulness session on zoom next Monday 15 June at 10.30 am. Email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details.