Ring the changes

Quit sleepwalking

The more our days are samey, the easier it is to sleepwalk through them. Sure, our eyes are open but we fail to notice much.

We make a cup of tea and drink it. A moment later we check our empty mug: we do not recall the warmth, the taste, the smell – all the sensations of having a cuppa.  It’s a small example of failing to experience living to the full. We miss the moment entirely.

A fellow participant on a pain management course I went on many years ago shared a top tip with me on how to remain aware – live consciously – even when things are samey. It has stayed with me and I think you too will find it useful.

A biker living with ongoing pain from a major motorcycle accident, each time he bought washing up liquid he bought a different one. He did this so that when he was washing up he could experience a change in the smell and even the texture of the bubbles. In an everyday activity, he was intentionally ringing the changes in order to awaken his senses.

What change could you make this week to enable you to be more fully awake, to notice, to live life more fully? It could be as simple as doing a familiar walk at a different time of day or choosing to brush our teeth with a traditional toothbrush rather than our usual electric one (or vice versa). Look out for opportunities to ring the changes in small ways – and by doing that experience the miracle of life more fully.

This is Mindful Monday on 8 February 2021. Join a mindfulness session ‘wintering in lockdown’ on zoom tonight at 7 pm. Simply email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details.

A vital skill

Lockdown hair_

Image of Albert Einstein by Jackie Ramirez from Pixabay – with text subsequently added

We live in unusual times. We are the same but uncertainty has skyrocketed. And booking a hair cut is simply not possible!

There is value in something we can practice in the unusual and the usual times – and that is curiosity.

Being curious is a vital skill. Ask questions about yourself, others, structures, the world, the cosmos. Ask them of yourself. Ask them of others. Seek to gain knowledge.

Albert Einstein, the great physicist, is attributed as saying, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

Whatever your questions during lockdown, ask them. You may be pondering the big questions of life or the small questions of day-to-day living. Or a blend of the two.

A couple of YouTube videos have helped me in the past week with questions of day-to-day living including ‘how to cut hair’. Doubtless you have googled a few questions too.

Seeing plants shooting up in the spring sunshine and showers have served for me as expressions of hope. I have even marked one plant on the fence to track its progress!

We know we don’t have all the answers. But join me in being curious this week. You never know where it might lead.

As always, it is of course your choice. To cut or not to cut?

This is Mindful Monday on 4 May 2020.

Join a zoom mindfulness session at 10.30 am on Monday 11 May – just email hello@essencecheltenham.org to receive a link.



We have all learned new words and phrases recently including ‘social distancing’, ‘PPE’, ‘lockdown’, ‘self-isolating’, ‘herd immunity’, and ‘furlough’. (Of course, there is also ‘anti-social distancing’, which is when you haven’t washed and still venture out!)

We are also regularly using words that would have been rare before the pandemic: ‘vaccine’, ‘hotspots’, ‘contact tracing’, ‘stock piling’, and ‘panic-buying’.

For nearly all of us our daily lives are different. It isn’t surprising that the words we use have changed to describe the situation.

Let’s be intentional and notice the language we are using, beyond the language we need relating to coronavirus.

Notice ‘the language of your thoughts’. What are your repeated thoughts about? Are these thoughts useful in the sense that they are helpful for example to remind you to stay safe or do something? Or are these thoughts unhelpful in the sense that they are simply running you ragged? Notice also the positive or negative language in your thoughts. Are you beating yourself (or others) up in your thoughts? Is everything a downer? Do fearful thoughts loom large? Or are you more balanced in acknowledging the good as well as the tough stuff?

It can help to write down your thoughts so that you can review them – for your eyes only.

It is a sure thing that there will be a match – albeit not a perfect match – between the language of your thoughts and the language you use out loud with others (or out loud to yourself if you are self-isolating).

When we find we are focusing on the tough stuff – perhaps even feeling overwhelmed as we absorb the latest personal, national or global news – practicing gratitude is a sure way to get the balance. It isn’t about shutting out the tough stuff. It is simply about recognising there is also good stuff.

Start writing or saying a few things you can be thankful for today. This might be a good exercise to do with others in your household, including expressing it in pictures. Once you start, you will be surprised how quickly the list – your thankfulness grows.

Notice the language you use. Practice gratitude. Stay well.

This is Thoughtful Thursday on 29 April 2020.

Email hello@essencecheltenham.org or use messenger to sign up for a virtual mindfulness session on zoom at 10.30 am on Monday 11 May.



When’s it all going to be over?

Adjusting to challenging change

Change happens. It can be a change we perceive negatively or positively. Either way we will each go through a journey in adjusting to a change.

Often it is possible to put a timeframe on a change. We can think to ourselves “[difficult or happy change] will all be over by [date]”. Putting a timeframe on a change – even if it turns out to be a moving timeframe and we are incorrect – helps us to cope with the change.

We are all adjusting to our lives in the midst of a global pandemic. It is a time of change that is particularly challenging because realistically we can’t put a timeframe on it.

To manage challenging change we need to take extra care of ourselves (and if we do take care of ourselves, we may then be able to help others).

As individuals and because we have different calls on our energy, we will each experience adjusting to the changes in our lives differently. Yet common for many of us will be denial and resistance: “this can’t be happening” or “it isn’t fair”.

Accepting that change is hard to adjust to is in fact part of the adjustment! Hear yourself if this is where you are at. If you find journaling useful, note your disbelief and your fight reflex. Talk to others about it. Be courageous by being honest about where you are – and this will help others to do the same.

As we notice and accept our reactions, we are starting to manage the change, reducing the stress of it. You could choose to spend 10 minutes a day writing down your reactions to the situation. As you do, you are likely to gain fresh insights. You will be learning. You will be wiser.

Definitely make a decision to give attention to your basic needs: eat, move, sleep. When we are in times of uncertainty – and one without an end date – it is easy to neglect our basic needs. Don’t. Give them attention.

Change happens – but we can influence how well we are in the midst of it.. Be well.

This is Thoughtful Thursday on 16 April 2020.

New year

Choices on the horizon

Happy new year! It is a new year – and a new decade. 2020 somehow sounds significant, like the year 2000 felt significant.

And yet 1 January 2020 was a day when the sun rose and set just like any day. We gave it significance through the date system we use.

This made me think about my choices on what I think is significant and what I don’t. Each of our choices are unique to ourselves. They are based on our own beliefs and values, sometimes shared widely with others and sometimes not.

Being aware of what we deem to be significant and what we don’t is useful. It is worth our time to identify what is significant to us right now. Why? Because what we deem to be significant will influence the choices we make on how we spend our energies this day.

Being aware and making choices based on that awareness will aid each of us in living lives of meaning, lives of purpose.

Sure there is ‘the routine stuff’ in our days with which we engage. If we don’t identify what is significant to us, the routine stuff will fill our horizons. If we identify what is significant to us – and pursue this as best as we can – we can choose (at times at least) to give priority to that which is significant. The journey of awareness has gold within it.

This is Mindful Monday on 6 January 2020.

If you live in Cheltenham or nearby, join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening of mindfulness at the Oasis at 7.30-9 pm on Monday 3 February 2020. To book your place email hello@essencecheltenham.org















5 minutes a day


It is advent, marking the lead up to Christmas. Our thoughts may be on card writing, present making or buying, travel plans to meet with those we love, and things that have to be completed before the holidays begin. It may be a happy time of year; it may be a difficult time of year.

I have an advent candle that I plan to use each day (and will fail some days I know!). It will cause me to pause; to seek to be still (and forgive myself when this defeats me!). There will be happy moments; there will be difficult moments. But I know seeking stillness in the midst of the busyness of the season will be worthwhile. It will help me to be more aware of myself, of others – and the Light of the World.

Join me, whether you have an advent candle or not. Take five minutes each day to pause.

This is Mindful Monday on 2 December 2019.

Join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill at the Oasis, Cheltenham, tonight 2 December, 7.30-9 pm for an evening of mindfulness focussed on our interconnectedness. There will music, reflective craft, meditation – and always time out for a cuppa. Book your place by emailing hello@cheltenhamessence.org

Absolutely unique

“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.”

I first saw this quotation on someone’s T-shirt.

“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.”

Researching its origin, it looks like this came from Margaret Mead, an author and speaker well known in the sixties and seventies.

I love it. I love it for its duality.

Certainly we should remember we are each absolutely unique. May be that helps us to celebrate the mix that makes me me and you you.

But have a go this week and note each person you meet. Remind yourself that they are unique. As you do this, you may find yourself more open to that person, more appreciative of who they are.

That way we can all celebrate that indeed I am me and you are you.

This is Mindful Monday on 16 September 2019.

Join Julie Hill and Sara Shailer tonight for an evening of mindfulness on theme of each of our uniqueness tonight at the Oasis, Cheltenham. To book email hello@essencecheltenham.org