Shuffling, limping or running?

As a group of us gathered for a mindfulness session earlier this week, a participant asked, “What is mindfulness? Are we meant to practice it every day?” Good questions which I thought I could explore in this blog.

What is mindfulness?

My own (probably clumsy) definition is that mindfulness is being intentionally aware of ourselves, others and the world around us. This for me includes being intentionally aware of God, my Creator and Provider, but for others it might not.

And I’d go a little further with a definition of mindfulness and add that once we are practicing being aware , we can then at times choose how we react or what we do with that awareness. Sure lots of things are beyond our control. But some things – like how I react to another person, an event, or when I do once realise how I feel about something – is within my control, to a degree at least.

Are we meant to practice it every day?

My aim is to continually grow in awareness – and therefore intentional living.

Some day it is right to the fore of my mind; some days it is only at the back of my mind. In a crisis I hope it will interwoven into who I am, helping me to manage well. What I know is that pursuing awareness is part of living life in all its fullness, something I believe each of us is born to do.

You might hear practicing awareness referred to as a journey. We discover a little more with each step (day). We can’t see round the next bend in the road but we can observe what we find in this stretch – the good and the bad – and walk on. Yes sometime we’re shuffling or limping; other times we are running. It isn’t a competition with the winner the first to arrive. It’s a journey to be savoured and shared with others, stopping off along the way for new discoveries.

Being mindful I guess is simply living each day to its fullest. Thanks Sue for the questions!

This is Mindful Monday on 18 January 2021.

Email hello@essencecheltenham.org to join a zoom evening of mindfulness on 8 February 2021 7-8.15 pm.

This too shall pass

‘This too shall pass’ appears in multiple cultures, including Persian and Jewish. At the heart of the different stories is often a monarch charging his wise men to come up with a sentence that would be true and appropriate in all times and situations.

It remains an apt phrase, consoling us in tough times that whatever our situation there will be brighter days.

When we are joyful, it’s a phrase that reminds us to treasure that time.

Change is indeed a constant. Sometimes we need an extra reminder that grey skies will give way to blue skies.

This is Mindful Monday on 11 January 2021.

To join a virtual mindfulness session on zoom this evening 7-8.15 pm (UK time), simply email hello@essencecheltenham.org.

Are you well?

How are you? Are you well? Common questions we ask one another. Questions we answer truthfully or otherwise, dependent on a host of factors.

At times of tragedy or crisis, the honest answer is miserable. At times of joy, we might report being ecstatic. Then there’s somewhere around the mid-point that might describe the everyday of living: we are neither miserable nor ecstatic but somewhere in between.

Asking and honestly answering the question ‘are you well?’ for ourselves is valuable. We might even see it as a ‘wellness scale’, becoming aware that we would score ourselves differently on any given day.

When the answer is well and truly miserable, we need to reach out for help – to friends, family, colleagues and/or professionals. When our answer is ecstatic, share your joy. But what about the in between place of the everyday? This is where we can routinely take action to nurture our wellbeing.

I bet you are expecting a list now of the things to do to nurture wellbeing. Such lists are all well and good at times but they can appear bland. If I gave you a list, the chances are you (and I) would simply pick something rather randomly from the list – and may be even add it to our ‘to do’ list for the day or week but this isn’t engaging with the unique person that you are.

Take a moment to explore the unique you in relation to wellness. Think back on last year to identify something you did that added to your wellbeing. Explore exactly what it was. Recall how it helped you. Ask yourself if you could build it into your routine for this week, month or year. Reflect on whether there is anything about the activity (or lack of activity!) that you could hone to make it even better in terms of nurturing your wellbeing. Commit to it.

You are now wiser. You can influence – at times at least – where you are on the wellness scale.

Be wise; be well.

This is Mindful Monday on 4 January 2021.

Join a virtual mindfulness gathering on zoom on Monday 11 January at 7 pm. Just email hello@essencheltenham.org for details.

Gutted?

A shock. Unexpected. Unwelcome.

Those were my reactions to the government announcement this weekend changing Christmas plans in England, with similar announcements from the other nations.

Like me, you have probably been reacting to the announcement; you have been communicating with family and friends to unmake plans, plans for celebrations you were looking forward to – this year among all years!

We share a sense of disappointment. Acknowledging this is a good place to start dealing with it (as with many emotions that we find unpleasant).

Alongside acknowledging a sense of loss for what might have been, we can also consciously practice being thankful for what we do have.

Focusing on your Christmas plans, name three things for which you are thankful. It may be tough to do that but give it a go. Once you are aware of three things for which you are thankful, I bet you can think of three more . . . and three more . . .

This is Mindful Monday on 21 December 2020. Look out for dates of virtual mindfulness sessions at www.essencecheltenham.com or www.facebook.com/essencecheltenham

Perfectly imperfect

As many of us prepare to celebrate Christmas, we probably have expressed – or unexpressed – perceptions of what a perfect Christmas looks like. And if we don’t, ads, the media and even friends and family are ready to share their snapshots of perfectionism.

Let’s be aware of our high expectations. Let’s also be open to questioning our expectations.

Seeking perfectionism often equates with high stress levels. And because we are who we are – and those around us are who they are – a perfect celebration is impossible to achieve.

And yet the beauty – the joy – sometimes comes from the imperfect bits. It may just be my cooking but the shared laughter at the obvious differences between the recipe’s ‘marketing’ picture and the reality on the table is an example! Or perhaps you welcome an extra guest that throws the table plan and requires the use of that ‘wobbly’ chair – or this year perhaps eating in the outdoors, due to covid restrictions?!

Don’t allow the desire for perfectionism to take over. Accept the imperfect – in you and around you – intentionally noticing it and at times celebrating it.

The Japanese use a phrase wabi-sabi for a world view that includes accepting imperfection and appreciating beauty within it.

Let’s relax and breath; let’s enjoy what is so often the perfectly imperfect.

This is Mindful Monday on 14 December 2020. Look out for 2021 dates for virtual sessions.

Let there be light!

Christmas lights are already twinkling everywhere. Outdoors. Indoors.

The lights make the darkness of the evening seem blacker.

I find myself trying to avoid peaking through neighbours’ windows as I walk by – but I am drawn! Drawn to the lights.

And maybe this year – a difficult year – we will find ourselves especially drawn to the twinkling of lights.

I wonder if we are especially drawn to lights this year because they represent hope somehow. Archbishop Tutu said as he was retiring, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

Look at the lights. As you do, reflect on what hopes the lights represent for you.

And yes as you look at the lights, you will notice the darkness too. Hope comes when we know that the darkness cannot overcome the light.

This is Mindful Monday on 7 December 2020.

Join a mindfulness virtual session on zoom this evening at 7 pm on the theme of light. Simply email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details.

A winter of discontent?

We are in tough times. Many of us in the UK found it a shock to hear we would emerge during this coming week from national lockdown to being under further stringent measures in either tier 2 or tier 3. (Or should I say tears 2 or tears 3?)

Regardless of our views on the measures in place and our specific situations, the phrase “winter of discontent” seems apt. Yet sad.

Instead of being discontent, we can choose to be content. This would mean discovering that we are satisfied with what we have or, put another way, we know that we have enough.

We can make this discovery even alongside recognising there are things that we would want otherwise. It isn’t about ignoring the tough stuff; it is about choosing to notice and be thankful for those things that we do have.

When we practice being thankful for what we have, we take a big step towards contentment. It’s a path worth taking.

Practising being thankful means intentionally bringing to mind things that we are thankful for. To help us do this we might choose to make a list or draw pictures. If we are in a household of more than one, how about discussing the things we are thankful for at a meal? (Food tends to bring out the thankfulness in most of us, especially during lockdown!)

The phrase “winter of discontent” is in a Shakespeare play. A character starts a speech, “Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York.”

Is it possible that our winter of discontent can be transformed – seem like summer (or even just a little sunnier) – by our intentional thankfulness?

This is Mindful Monday on 30 November 2020.

Join others for an evening of mindfulness on zoom next Monday evening 7 December at 7 pm. Simply email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details.