What you can, not what you can’t

Do what you canBeing mindful means being aware. We practice being aware because our default otherwise is to live on auto pilot, with minutes, hours and days – our lives – just passing us by.

I have found this saying useful.

“Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”

It is a saying that President Roosevelt quotes in his autobiography as a philosophy he lived by. My life is not as complicated as his but I still find the saying applicable to my day to day.

The saying makes me aware of myself. It makes me aware of the resources I have. And finally it makes me aware of where I am i.e. the situation I am in.

We are all in situations where we want to make a difference, to help. This is a positive thing. It is also positive to be aware of what you can do – and what you can’t.

Mindfulness is a lot to do with noticing reality – or put another way being aware of what is. This includes being aware of how we can make difference, using what we have to make a positive difference to those around us. It also includes being aware of when we cannot make a difference – but perhaps where others can.

Hope you find the saying useful in knowing when you can make a positive difference this week, while also looking after your wellbeing.

This is Mindful Monday on 4 November 2019.

Join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening of mindfulness on the theme of the uniqueness of our life journeys at the Oasis in Cheltenham tonight. To book and for more details, email hello@essenccheltenham.org

Letting go

Letting go

Summer is often the time for exam results for many young people and some not so young. It is the moment of finding out whether hard work has paid off and you can proceed with the next step as you had planned or need to think again.

Sometimes there is a clear link between hard work and achieving a good result; sometimes there isn’t a clear link.

Here’s a story:

A martial arts student says to their teacher, “I am devoted to study. How long will it take me to become a master?” The teacher replied, “Ten years.”

Impatient the student said, “But I will work hard. I will practice every day for hours and hours. How long will it take then?” The teacher replied, “Twenty years.”

Mindfulness is like that. We need to let things unfold. When we are impatient for a particular result, our understanding will be clouded. We will be frustrated.

Mindfulness is about letting go, not trying harder. As we do this, our understanding of ourselves and those around us will deepen. As well as becoming more physically, mentally and emotionally aware, we may also find ourselves more spiritually aware.

I know that letting go in itself ain’t easy – but it is nice not to have to tell yourself to try harder!

This is Mindful Monday on 2 September 2019.

Join Julie Hill and Sara Shailer for an evening of mindfulness on the theme of each of our uniqueness on Monday 16 September at 7.30 to 9 pm at the Oasis, Cheltenham. There is no charge but you do need to book in advance. To book email hello@essencecheltenham.org. Looking forward to welcoming you!



Auto response?


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.

Steps to peace within

Steps to peace within

All of us seek peace within – and most of us will have found it is a journey, the path of which we continue to walk, rather than having a sense of having reached the destination called ‘total peace’!

Tomorrow a group of us will meet in Cheltenham (UK) for an evening of mindfulness, on the theme of ‘growing in peace’.

We will reflect on actions we can take today on our journey to peace, including looking back to identify things in our past or our thoughts about the future that might rob us of the peace we seek now. We will touch on two equally powerful choices of acceptance or action to change our perspectives on our past and our future, enabling us to live better in the present.

I just watched a four-minute video by Terry Waite, a hostage for several years. He suffered and yet he seeks to address the anger he had, rather than let it simmer:

If I allow my anger to get the better of me [because of what happened to be in the past], it will destroy me.

He also says:

This is your life now. Not tomorrow, not yesterday. Now.

Click here to watch the video.

This is Mindful Monday on 4 February 2019.

If you would like to join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening of mindfulness at the Oasis on Tuesday 5 February 2019, email ahead to book your place as it helps to know how many of us are gathering to prepare the space: hello@essencecheltenham.org.



Being happy, being at peace, being contented: these all seem related as I reflect on them and observe myself but I can’t fully explain why!

I want to share a story. It is about contentment in relation to riches. May the story enrich you!

A capitalist was horrified to find a fisherman lying beside his boat, smoking a pipe.

“Why aren’t you out fishing?” he asked.

“Because I have caught enough fish for the day.”

“Why don’t you catch some more?” the capitalist persisted.

“What would I do with it?” asked the fisherman.

“Earn more money. Then you could have a motor fixed to your boat and go into deeper waters and catch more fish. That would bring you money to buy nylon nets, so more fish, more money. Soon you would have enough to buy two boats . . . or even a fleet of boats. Then you could be rich like me.

“What would I do then?” asked the fisherman.

“Then you could really enjoy life,” the capitalist replied.

“What do you think I am doing now?” responded the fisherman, refilling his pipe.

I have enjoyed this story in many locations but I have quoted this particular version from Godzone: A guide to the travels of the soul by Mike Riddell.

This is Mindful Monday on 28 January 2019.

Join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening of mindfulness on the theme of growing in peace on Tuesday 5 February, 7.30-9 pm at the Oasis in Cheltenham. Let us know you are coming so we prepare the space for the right number of people by emailing hello@essencecheltenham.org. There is no charge – simply make a donation on the night towards the cost of room hire if and as you are able.



Listening – to you

listening to you

Most of us would want to be good at listening to others. We would perhaps even regard it as a vital skill we want to actively nurture. We want to listen to our loved ones and those with whom our lives connect.

Perhaps fewer of us are good at listening to ourselves. And we may not place the same value on this as we would on listening to others.

Yet learning to notice ourselves – how we are, what is happening in our thoughts, emotions, spirits and bodies – actually creates a more positive space to notice – to listen to – others.

I have been intentional about listening to myself over the last week. I have had varied and many things to which I have needed to pay attention (happy and sad events; some activities that have been mentally demanding and some simply requiring the commitment of many hours; some physically demanding and some physically constraining).

When we listen to ourselves (and others), we often find compassion rising. We realise the needs we have for rest, for good nutrition, for laughter, for companionship, for essential ‘chilling out’. We listen and we increase our chances of making wise choices.

One of my wise choices was to plan for a Sunday afternoon relaxing on the sofa. A time of rest. Lovely!

Listen to yourself. Allow yourself to be compassionate to yourself (not always easy I know). Make wise choices.

This is Mindful Monday on 14 January 2019. 

Do you live in Cheltenham or nearby? Join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening of mindfulness on the theme of ‘growing in peace’ on Tuesday 5 February 7.30-9 pm, booking your place in advance by emailing hello@essencecheltenham.org.


Nature as a mirror

nature as a mirror

Spending time outdoors is generally seen as a good thing, with claims that it can

  • help lower blood pressure and de-stress us
  • combat tiredness, anxiety and depression
  • reduce inflammation, and even
  • improve short-term memory.

Here is an interesting article making such claims – and more.

And I for one have had a weekend in the outdoors and I feel the better for it.

As well as general health benefits, being in the outdoors also offers an opportunity to raise our awareness of our own state. As we look, we may find a glimpse of the natural world holds a mirror on how we are physically, emotionally or spiritually.

Take a look outside, even if it just from a window or a doorway – or, if you can, take a walk. What do you see that reveals something of your internal world?

This is Mindful Monday on 20 August 2018.

If you live in or near Cheltenham, join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening of mindfulness – in the outdoors – this coming week on Tuesday 21 August, 7 pm to 8.30 pm.

The theme is ‘the gallery of the outdoors’. There is no charge or donation for this event (as we have no room hire cost!). Just get in touch for details of the location – and so that we know how many of us are gathering.