Make a choice

Whether we are US citizens or not, many of us will have been watching the American election results this week as Biden inched forward and duly became the President Elect.

Depending on our politics, we may be elated, disappointed – or just plain relieved. The twists and turns were for me high emotion. And during the week I found I had to make choices.

I had to make a choice to limit my exposure to the news. Why? Because the twists and turns were overly controlling my emotions. Sound familiar? Some of us might also have found this when following news of the coronavirus pandemic.

We can each make choices to improve our wellbeing. Sometimes this includes what we allow to dominate our thoughts. I am drawn back to a saying attributed to Martin Luther – wisdom crossing centuries: “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”

Take notice. Make wise choices.

This is Mindful Monday on 9 November.

Join others for a virtual mindfulness gathering on Monday 16 November, 7-8.15 pm (UK time). Simply email for details.

All weathers


Whatever the weather . . .

In many cultures – and certainly in the British culture – we love to talk about the weather. It comes up naturally and is often a fall back for conversation when passing a neighbour in the street.

We are great at observing the weather. We dress differently according to how we perceive the weather to be. We freely discuss it.

We are sometimes not so great at observing our emotions. We may seek to hide how we are feeling from others. We fail to share.

We can be intentional about observing our emotions, taking time to identify our dominant emotion i.e. how are we feeling? Happy? Sad? Annoyed? Angry? Calm? Peaceful? Disappointed? Hopeful?

Sometimes it is helpful to express our dominant emotion. When our dominant emotion is very strong we can hardly not express it! When we are really happy – or really angry – it bursts out! Even strangers will probably enjoy sharing in our happiness but our anger might be less welcome. Whether it’s a welcome or difficult emotion, going through the process of observing it and labelling it helps us to be appropriate in our next steps.

Identifying our emotion is key to understanding it. If I identify I feel annoyed, I can then reflect on why I am annoyed. As I do this, I may be tempted to blame someone else for my emotion. But the way I feel is actually determined by how I think about the situation, not necessarily someone else’s action.

Here’s an example:

Activating event: someone pushes into a queue I am in.

Belief: I believe joining the end of the queue is the right thing to do.

Consequence: I feel annoyed.

So I identify my annoyance. I recognise it is because someone ‘pushed’ into the queue (it’s a strong emotion – someone pushed in!).

Armed with this information, I can question my belief, perhaps crediting the person with a reason for their urgency that I might not be aware of. Or I can challenge the person, pointing out politely where to join the queue. Or I can smile at my belief, recognising that others may not share that belief and – after all – the difference in time to me at that moment is inconsequential. There is no ‘right’ in this situation – all of these choices are open to me and all of them reduce my annoyance. Identifying my emotion gives me choices on the outworking of that emotion.

Life throws up far more complex situations and emotions than a queue jumper and the resulting annoyance. Let’s observe them. Let’s label them. Let’s be open to sharing them. Let’s understand our own beliefs in the situation. Let’s open ourselves up to having choices.

And if it makes you more comfortable, you can even use metaphors relating to the weather to identify your emotions. It’s a cultural thing I know!

This is Mindful Monday on 10 August 2020.

How are you today?


Heavy hearted. That is the best way I can describe how I feel about a situation I am in. It is valuable to label the emotion and accept it. And yes it will pass.

It reminded me of how we associate different emotions with bodily sensations – as well as with different colours and even the weather. We might describe ourselves as light hearted or sick to the stomach; we might say we are feeling blue or green with envy; we might say we are feeling sunny or grey.

I love this image in an academic journal showing how people mapped 13 different emotions to the body, including using colour.

I don’t believe my feeling of being heavy hearted has physically impacted my heart. But there are times when our emotions do have a physical impact. When we are afraid, for example, our ‘fight or flight’ response causes an increase in adrenaline creating a host of physical reactions. Or when we are feeling pressured, we may develop a headache and hold tension also in other places.

Let’s embrace language that helps us describe how we are feeling. Let’s take a holistic approach to ourselves, acknowledging that how we are feeling will at times impact us physically. It is a beginning of self understanding. It is also a good basis for knowing when we need to ask for help from others.

So what’s your prevailing emotion today? And does it help you to understand it by associating it with a part of your body, with a colour  or the weather?

This is Mindful Monday on 3 August 2020.

It will pass


I was fortunate enough to be by the sea last week, a joy indeed as lockdown begins to lift.

I watched the colours and sound of the waves change each day, through all weathers.

Watching the sea reminded me that we too go through all weathers. There are times when we are happy; there are times when we are sad. There are times when our circumstances are comfortable; there are times when our circumstances are uncomfortable.

If you feel grey today, look at nature and remember that it will pass. The clouds and the rain will clear and the sun will come out. In the sunshine? Bask in it!

This is Mindful Monday on 13 July. Look out for details of our next gathering later in July.

Fragile and joyful?

The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, taken from


“We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of true joy,” says the Archbishop.

And so begins the book I am reading which records the conversations of the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu meeting for a week in April 2015 to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s eightieth birthday – and share their wisdom on how to live with joy in the face of life’s inevitable sorrows.

The Book of Joy is co-written by Douglas Abrams who is Jewish (and secular) so there is a lightness in the midst of wisdom: A Buddhist, a Christian and a Jew walk into a bar . . .

This is an encouraging book. As well as a lightness, it also feels earthed in reality and offers interesting perspectives, like the idea of mental immunity.

“If your health is strong, when viruses come they will not make you sick. If your overall health is weak, even small viruses will be very dangerous for you. Similarly, if your mental health is sound, then when disturbances come, you will have some distress but quickly recover. If your mental health is not good, then small disturbances, small problems will cause you much pain and suffering. . . .  One must develop the mind over time and cultivate mental immunity. . . . Like the ocean has many waves on the surface but deep down it is quite calm. This is possible if we know how to develop mental immunity,” says the Dalai Lama.

The Archbishop agrees but wants to emphasise that we need to accept ourselves as we are, emotions and all. He urges us to avoid judging ourselves too harshly but instead identify our emotions, positive and negative (calm and turbulent), as they happen, helping us understand ourselves better. “There will be times when we catch a cold, and we should not make it worse by beating up on ourselves.”

I am encouraged that two spiritual masters meet – and reflect on fragility, emotions and the natural bent to beat ourselves up! These are the things of living we can relate to – be glad, celebrate, enjoy the common human experience.

This is Mindful Monday on 26 November 2018.

Join Julie Hill and Sara Shailer for an evening of mindfulness on the theme of growing in joy on Monday 3 December, 7.30 to 9 pm at the Oasis in Cheltenham.

There is no charge for the event – just make a donation towards room hire on the night if you are able. However, we do like to know numbers ahead of time so please book by emailing

And if you are coming bring a photo of something that gives you joy – just one photo so enjoy selecting it!



Managing emotions mindfully

It is tricky dealing with emotions!

We want things to be sweetness and light – and who wouldn’t?

Mindfulness – or being aware – doesn’t promise that all will be sweet. Shame!

However, being mindful helps us to be more aware of what is happening within us and around us, including with our emotions.

If we can observe more and react just a little less (hard I know!), we can begin to manage our emotions. By recognising them head on, just as they are, we get a head start with dealing with them. Simply avoiding recognising our emotions tends to just keep them simmering rather causing them to go away.

A poet called Rumi wrote this poem called ‘The guest house’ over 800 years ago, wise words still today about being aware of – perhaps even welcoming? – our emotions. It is a wise starting point in managing them.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness
comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

This is Mindful Monday on 9 April 2018. If you live in or near Cheltenham, join us for an evening of mindfulness next Monday 16 April, 7.30-9 pm.