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.

 

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.

 

 

Breathing in, breathing out

Our breath

Our breath is our life. When we practice focusing on our breath – the breath that just comes in and goes out naturally, without us having to force it – we are likely to at least approach a place of  stillness, a place of being just as we are in the present moment.

We can use our breath to journey through our bodies, imagining breathing into different parts of our bodies. As we do this we will make discoveries: areas that have a range of sensations (tingling, tightness, soreness) and areas without sensation. We will connect with our bodies, both the parts we find easy to accept and the parts we find harder to accept. This can help us to treat our bodies with kindness (instead of the impatience we may so often resort to), starting a journey of acceptance of our bodies and ourselves just as we are.

Give it a go! Click through here to an mp3 file of a sitting meditation of just over seven minutes. It takes you on a journey through your body using your breath. It will help you on a journey of acceptance of your body and yourself.

I recorded this on the request of Sarah W after I used it at a mindfulness session last week. Sarah reckons it might help her get to sleep. Hope it works!

Enjoy each and every one of you!

This is Mindful Monday on 18 November 2019.

If you live in or near Cheltenham, join us on Monday 2 December for an evening of mindfulness at the Oasis, 7.30-9 pm. Just email hello@essencecheltenham.org to let us know you are coming.

If you are part of a group or lead an organisation that would like to book mindfulness sessions, email hello@essencecheltenham.org or info@accompli.co.uk

 

After the rain

rainbow

Rainbows. I have seen three recently. This is one from my garden. I saw another driving along a road (couldn’t take a photo). A friend pointed out another at work (didn’t take a photo).

Each time I see a rainbow my spirits are lifted. I am glad. Almost ridiculously glad.

Why is this? A rainbow is simply a reaction of light in water droplets, always happening opposite the sun. Yet I have an emotional reaction. I smile when I see a rainbow. I am happy. I am the lighter for it.

Perhaps it is about hope. The rain – read ‘the tough times’ – has passed. So quickly, the sun – read ‘the good times’ – has come. Life continues and all things pass.

It also makes me think of the creator. It is beautiful. But it’s deeper even than that. It reminds me of a story. It’s a story of a flood than nearly destroyed everything – but it didn’t. There was hope. There was life. And there was the promise of relationship between God and all living creatures.

Maybe my reaction is best expressed just as ‘wow’, without too much analysis! Join me next time you see a rainbow. And in the meantime know that all things pass – and there is hope.

This is Mindful Monday on 28 October 2019.

If you living in or near Cheltenham, join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening of mindfulness exploring the theme of the uniqueness of each of our journeys on the evening of Monday 4 November at the Oasis in Cheltenham. To book your place, email hello@essencecheltenham.org

 

 

Living forwards

presentfuturepast

Life must be lived forwards, but it can be understood only backwards.

This is a quote from Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher and theologian, who lived over a century ago. Truth is timeless.

The past is not the present. If we allow thoughts of the past to consume us, we fail to live in the present – and our lives pass us by. This is when we dwell on the past, seeking to live in it (which of course is impossible to do but that doesn’t stop us trying perhaps!).

However our past can inform our present – our lives – if we choose to learn from it. Now we are not seeking to live in the past but to understand things that have happened in the past so that we can indeed let the past be the past. But we also want to apply any learning we can both to how we live now and how we plan for the future.

When we find no joy in the present, it may be a symptom – a sign – that we have unresolved matters from the past. These matters can rob us – steal – the joy of the present moment.

Seeking to understand our past may be complicated – seemingly at times impossible – and it won’t be a one hit kind of thing either. However armed with courage and compassion for ourselves and others there is joy in the present as a reward.

This is Mindful Monday on 1 July 2019.

Join Julie Hill and Sara Shailer for an evening of mindfulness next Monday 8 July at 7.30 pm at the Oasis in Cheltenham. We will be looking at how to live in the present while also learning from the past, exploring snippets of a story from the book The Present: the gift that makes you happy and successful at work and in life by Spencer Johnson.

Book your place by emailing hello@essencecheltenham.org

Story time

Story time

I recently sent a children’s book about Elmer the elephant to a niece in Australia – her two boys liked it so much that I think their parents know it by heart and have had to limit how often it is read!

Even as adults we like a good story. We may prefer to read or watch a story. A good story engages our emotions and takes us on a journey. It entertains us but it may also enlighten us i.e. we learn something along the way.

It is many years since I first read Spencer Johnson’s best-selling self-help book The Present: the secret to enjoying your work and life, now! I have probably read it over a dozen times. It is a short: I know because I re-read it on a train in 1.5 hours this week. It has big print, for those of us that still choose the printed version and might be pleased to have a bigger print size! It is a light read with characters that are easy to identify with.

But being short, big print and a light read are not the reasons I have read it so many times. I have read it so many times because it contains insights that ring true – and I find I take something different away each time I read it.

In fact I am just about to co-facilitate a mindfulness course of three sessions that includes a brief story time each session. Time to sit back, listen and – each of us in our own way – learn.

Alongside the story time we will also use meditation, discussion, video, music, and poetry – ah yes and we will listen to one another. There’s gold in the sharing.

This is Mindful Monday on 10 June 2019. Join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for three sessions of mindfulness on Monday evenings 17 June (being in the present), 8 July (being in the present while learning from the past) and 22 July (being in the present while helping to create the future).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love divine

cross

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!