What’s your motto for living?

A motto to live by

A motto is usually short – and memorable. We can each have our own motto which sums up how we live.

Because each of us is unique, we will have our own individual spin on a motto with which others might also identify.

What might the Queen’s motto might be? Could it be “duty first”? You might identify with that or one of the following: “live and let live”, “keep calm and carry on”, “be yourself – everyone else is taken”, “every cloud has a silver lining”, “tomorrow is another day”, “do to others as you would have them do to you”, “smile and the world smiles with you”.

Once we have identified our motto, we can look at the reality of our day-to-day experience. Does our motto show in how we behave each day? Would others guess our motto from what they see of us? If not, our motto is aspirational. It is how we want to live but don’t (yet). Becoming aware of this is useful: we know the direction in which we want to go.

It is possible that when we identify ‘our’ motto, it is actually negative destructive thinking. What if, for example, we decide the motto we are living by is “each new day is another chance to fail”? Painful as this would be, it would still be useful. Once we identify destructive thinking, we have a chance to change it.

Mindfulness is all about noticing. Knowing what influences how we live – or want to live – is gold.

What’s your motto to live by? Actual or aspirational? Healthy or unhealthy? Changed in lockdown or consistent?

This is Mindful Monday on 15 June 2020.

To join a zoom mindfulness session at 10.30 am today, email hello@cheltenhamessence.org for the 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.

 

 

Impatient like me?

adopt the pace of nature_ her secret is patience

I am impatient. I want to know if I can go on holiday in the UK in a couple of months. I don’t have the answer.

Are you too impatient? Is it about a particular situation, another person or yourself?

Some of us are able to spend more time looking at nature now. We know that spending time in nature is good for our mental wellbeing – and even looking at photos or watching videos of nature seem to have the same positive influence.

I came across this quotation (from American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson) and plan to meditate on it. There is wisdom within it.

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

This is Mindful Monday on 11 May 2020. Join us for a virtual mindfulness session on zoom at 10.30 am. Email hello@essencecheltenham.org for the details.

Words

words

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.

Barefoot earlier in the Spring

daisy-2.png

It is warming up in the UK. I haven’t yet walked barefoot outdoors but the time is coming . . .

Enjoy this poem ‘I’d pick more daisies’, which is attributed to Nadine Stair at age 85. What does living in the moment mean for our choices today?

If I had my life to live over,
I’d try to make more mistakes.
I would relax. I would limber up.
I would be sillier.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.
I would go more places.
I would climb more mountains,
swim more rivers, and watch more sunsets.
I would eat more ice cream and fewer beans.
I would have more actual troubles
and fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I am one of those people who lives
prophylactically and sensibly and sanely,
hour after hour, day after day.

Oh, I have had my moments.
And if I had it to do over again, I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else.
Just moments, one after another.
Instead of living so many years ahead each day.

I have been one of those people who never go
anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle,
a gargle, a raincoat, and a parachute.

If I had to do it over again,
I would go places and do things.
I’d travel lighter than I have.
If I had my life to live over, I would start barefooted
earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.
I would play hooky more.
I wouldn’t make such good grades except by accident.
I would ride on merry-go-rounds.
I’d pick more daisies!

This is Mindful Monday on 25 February 2019.

Join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening of mindfulness in Cheltenham on the theme of growing in patience on 25 March 2019. Book your place by emailing hello@essencecheltenham.org

There is no charge – if you are able make a donation towards room hire on the night.

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.