Controlled?

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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

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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.

Unknown

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

 

Pause

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

Pause.

React.

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.

A happy heart

happy heart

Enjoy this poem – and reflect on things in this day (the simple things) that give you a happy heart.

The Best Day of My Life by Gregory M. Lousignont

Today, when I woke up, I suddenly realized that this is the best day of my life ever!
There were times when I wondered if I would make it today; but I did!
And because I did I’m going to celebrate!

Today, I’m going to celebrate what an unbelievable life
I’ve have had so far: the accomplishments, the many blessings,
and, yes, even the hardships because they have served to make me stronger.

I will go through this day with my head held high and a happy heart.
I will marvel at God’s seemingly simple gifts:
the morning dew, the sun, the clouds, the trees, the flowers, the birds.

Today, none of these miraculous creations will escape my notice.
Today, I will share my excitement for life with other people.
I’ll make someone smile. I’ll go out of my way to perform an
unexpected act of kindness for someone I don’t even know.

Today, I’ll give a sincere compliment to someone who seems down.
I’ll tell a child how special he is, and I’ll tell someone I love
just how deeply I care for them and how much they mean to me.

Today is the day I quit worrying about what I don’t have and
start being grateful for all the wonderful things God has already given me.
I’ll remember that to worry is just a waste of time
because my faith in God and his Divine Plan ensures everything will be just fine.

Tonight, before I go to bed, I’ll go outside and raise my eyes to the heavens.
I will stand in awe at the beauty of the stars and the moon, and
I will praise God for these magnificent treasures.

As the day ends and I lay my head down on my pillow,
I will thank the Almighty for the best day of my life.
And I will sleep the sleep of a contented child,
excited with expectation because I know tomorrow is going to be
the best day of my life, ever!

This is Mindful Monday on 1 April 2019.

If you live near or in Cheltenham, join Julie Hill and Sara Shailer for an evening of mindfulness on the theme of growing in self-control on the evening of Tuesday 14 May 2019 at the Oasis.

 

 

 

 

Auto response?

life

There are many happenings in every day that we respond to. Each happening can cause different thoughts and emotions to arise within us, whether we express them or keep them to ourselves.

Often we use an ‘auto response’: an automatic, unintentional, and unintended reaction. Without even being aware of what is going on inside us, we respond. We are in auto pilot.

By learning to pause – to notice what is happening within us and around us – we can change our auto response to an intentional response. It’s part of living mindfully; living with awareness.

Look out for a situation today where you feel an emotion, perhaps of impatience (it’s a common emotion!). Notice the reaction you have: how you feel, what you are thinking, what is happening physically in your body. Pay attention. Notice. PAUSE.

You may find focusing on your breathing for a moment helps you to pause.

And now make a choice on what you do next. Not an auto-response; an intentional response.

Just maybe, you notice the sun is shining on you – or an equivalent in the situation – that you would have missed in auto-response mode. Perhaps you take a different course of action to what you would have.

It isn’t easy to change our auto response: we need to practice. It helps to practice with others at times. The reward? A fuller experience of life, this moment, this day.

Join Julie Hill and Sara Shailer for an evening of mindfulness this evening, 25 March 2019, at the Oasis in Cheltenham. Book your place by emailing hello@essencecheltenham.org.