Do not be afraid

angels

It’s Christmas and my mantle piece hosts a variety of angels. I’ll let you debate whether it is in fact a host of angels, a flight of angels, or a gathering of angels!

Angels appear several times in the Christmas story. I love reading the story of shepherds on a hillside at night having an angel appear to them from whom the first words are “Do not be afraid.”

The story of Christmas is a story of hope: a move from fear to love.

And the story goes on, as the angel says, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

Look closely and you will see the angels celebrating – a bit of music tends to be part of a good celebration.

Whatever your situation, may you experience love and joy this Christmas time. Even in the darkness of the night, may it burst upon you. Happy Christmas.

This is Mindful Monday on 24 December 2018. 

 

Light (and dark)

light

Christmas is getting closer and the lights are on! Lights on Christmas trees, lights in other Christmas decorations, in gardens, on eaves . . . . Christmas is acoming!

And the lights look great partly because it’s dark by mid-afternoon.

In the happenings of our lives this week we may also recognise the light and dark, the beautiful and the ugly, the joyful and the painful, the fun and the sadness.

We are on a journey of acceptance of both the light and the dark. The Christmas story contains both. The Christmas story also offers hope that the light keeps shining.

Jesus, the light of the world. My light. This is true for me – and whatever your faith or your spiritual experience – may you know The Light shining in the darkness.

The light keeps shining
in the dark,
and darkness has never
put it out.

Be aware of the light. You may notice it shining ever brighter the darker it gets.

This is Mindful Monday on 17 December 2018.

Essence Cheltenham meets for an evening of mindfulness on Tuesday 5 February on the theme of growing in peace. Book your place if you would like to come.

 

Joy doubled

dog

If a trouble shared is a trouble halved, is a joy shared a joy doubled?

We met for an evening of mindfulness on the theme of ‘growing in joy’ last Monday. At one point in the evening we moved into small groups to share a photo or picture that gives us joy.

The photos and pictures were of loved ones (both people and pets!), the beauty of nature, creative pursuits enjoyed, and moments cherished. They were lovely to see. But what was more wonderful still was the face of each person as they shared. There is indeed joy in sharing in the joy of another.

Look today. Notice the joy of others. Be ready to see it. Be ready to be enriched.

This is Mindful Monday on 10 December 2018.

We meet for an evening of mindfulness on Tuesday 5 February on the theme of ‘growing in peace’. Book if you would like to come.

 

Acceptance: a firm foundation for joy

joy acceptance

I found a meditation this week that is designed to help us accept our life moment by moment without judgement or the expectation for life to be other than what it is. Core mindfulness content indeed.

What surprised me was where I found this particular meditation. It is in a book called ‘The Book of Joy’. One step in the meditation is to think of a situation that you are having a hard time accepting. The next step is to remind yourself that this is the nature of reality because painful realities happen to us, those we love and are all around us in the world. The meditation is based on the idea that any possibility of joy requires an acceptance of reality. (If this stuff was easy, we wouldn’t have to work at it!).

The final step is to choose to recite or reflect on one of two passages, one from the Buddhist and one from the Christian tradition.

If something can be done about it,
what need is there for dejection?
And if nothing can be done about it,
what use is there for being dejected?
Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva

God, give us the grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Reinhold Niebuhr, The Serenity Prayer

Sometimes acceptance of a situation is our destination; at other times as we accept a situation we see a way forward – an action we can choose to take – and therein is the possibility of joy.

This is Mindful Monday on 3 December 2018.

Join Julie Hill and Sara Shailer to explore growing in joy tonight at the Oasis in Cheltenham, 7.30-9 pm. Email hello@essencecheltenham.org to book your place.

Fragile and joyful?

The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, taken from www.bookofjoy.org

 

“We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of true joy,” says the Archbishop.

And so begins the book I am reading which records the conversations of the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu meeting for a week in April 2015 to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s eightieth birthday – and share their wisdom on how to live with joy in the face of life’s inevitable sorrows.

The Book of Joy is co-written by Douglas Abrams who is Jewish (and secular) so there is a lightness in the midst of wisdom: A Buddhist, a Christian and a Jew walk into a bar . . .

This is an encouraging book. As well as a lightness, it also feels earthed in reality and offers interesting perspectives, like the idea of mental immunity.

“If your health is strong, when viruses come they will not make you sick. If your overall health is weak, even small viruses will be very dangerous for you. Similarly, if your mental health is sound, then when disturbances come, you will have some distress but quickly recover. If your mental health is not good, then small disturbances, small problems will cause you much pain and suffering. . . .  One must develop the mind over time and cultivate mental immunity. . . . Like the ocean has many waves on the surface but deep down it is quite calm. This is possible if we know how to develop mental immunity,” says the Dalai Lama.

The Archbishop agrees but wants to emphasise that we need to accept ourselves as we are, emotions and all. He urges us to avoid judging ourselves too harshly but instead identify our emotions, positive and negative (calm and turbulent), as they happen, helping us understand ourselves better. “There will be times when we catch a cold, and we should not make it worse by beating up on ourselves.”

I am encouraged that two spiritual masters meet – and reflect on fragility, emotions and the natural bent to beat ourselves up! These are the things of living we can relate to – be glad, celebrate, enjoy the common human experience.

This is Mindful Monday on 26 November 2018.

Join Julie Hill and Sara Shailer for an evening of mindfulness on the theme of growing in joy on Monday 3 December, 7.30 to 9 pm at the Oasis in Cheltenham.

There is no charge for the event – just make a donation towards room hire on the night if you are able. However, we do like to know numbers ahead of time so please book by emailing hello@essencecheltenham.org.

And if you are coming bring a photo of something that gives you joy – just one photo so enjoy selecting it!

 

 

Time to live

Time to live

In many cultures people don’t have watches but they seem to have lots of time. Here we are likely to comment on not having enough time (but I bet you have a watch!).

We all have – in any culture – twenty-four hours in each day. There are choices we make on how we spend that time (although sometimes we may feel that others take our choices away from us).

I love this proverb attributed to the Ibo, apparently the biggest ethnic group in Africa:

Always being in a hurry does not prevent death, neither does going slowly prevent living.

I am a fan of slow cooking but slow living? It is challenging in the day to day of living to live more slowly (more intentionally?). But I know when I took a day’s retreat last week (choosing to have a slow day) there was joy – a simple appreciation of living – in that time. 

Can you take a slow mo (even if a day isn’t possible)? And what do you discover?

This is Mindful Monday on 19 November 2018.

If you live in Cheltenham or nearby, join Julie Hill and Sara Shailer for an evening of mindfulness on Monday 3 December on the theme of joy. Book your place ahead to give us an idea of numbers.

 

Be

girl lying on white surface petting gray rabbit

Photo by Anastasiya Gepp on Pexels.com

Numerous people are attributed as saying ‘We are human beings, not human doings.’ And just sometimes when many people say the same things, it is because it has truth within it.

Sometimes we put our value in what we do. This might be how busy our diary is, how many others we help, how hard we work, how much we earn, how fit we are.

What if . . . we practised just being? This would mean we don’t put value on what we do but value who we are. A bit like children do. Just be.

This is Mindful Monday on 12 November 2018.

If you live in or near Cheltenham, we meet for an evening of mindfulness of Monday 3 December on the theme of ‘growing in joy’. Join us if you can by booking your place in advance.