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.

 

Frazzled?

Like a frazzle

Many of us love a frazzle (bacon-flavoured crisp). None of us would volunteer to feel frazzled.

I like this 3-minute portable technique from Ruby Wax for those moments when we do feel frazzled and need to step back. It’s good to start with a minute welcoming all thoughts rather than trying to push them away (and getting nowhere!).

1 Widen your focus by tuning into every thought in your mind, inviting them all in and letting them rip: the good, the bad and the ugly. The joys and the worries. After a minute, let them go…

2 Narrow your focus to just your breathing. Zoom in on a full breath, from nose to throat to chest, feeling your lungs expand and contract. After about a minute, let it go…

3 Widen your focus to your breath filling your whole body, from the top of your head right down to your toes. Inhale and exhale, feeling the breath empty out like a giant bellows.

Try it now – it’s only 3-minutes of your day.

If you came on the last virtual mindfulness session this is the meditation we used towards the end of our session.

This is Thoughtful Thursday on 4 June 2020.

Join me for a virtual mindfulness session on zoom at 10.30 am on 15 June 2020. Email hello@essencecheltenham.org for more details or to let me know you are coming.

 

Worry woes or acts of joy?

Worry woes or acts of joy

So many possibilities for our worries. The big picture of the world. Our own insecurities. Our own ineptitude. Our future and the futures of those we love.

We may know that worrying in itself is a road to nowhere. But this knowledge in itself may not stem the ‘worry woes’ that we have become accustomed to court. We continue to walk in the well-worn thought paths of our minds. We are frazzled, drained, joyless.

I came across a great antidote to worry in a poem recently. That antidote is joy; it’s choosing to turn from the ‘worry woes’ and instead choosing an act of joy.

Here’s the closing part of ‘I worried’ by Mary Oliver (2010, published by Beacon Press in Swan: Poems and Prose Poems):

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.

And I gave it up. And took my old body

And went out into the morning

and sang.

Is this just a temporary dismissal of our worries that will only once more come to haunt us? No. When we focus on what is good (or joyful), it gives us the energy to deal with things that are of concern to us. It puts us in a better place for dealing with life, including the difficult.

Let us acknowledge our worries. But let us also identify what gives us joy and be joyful.

This is Mindful Monday on 25 May 2020.

 Join Sara Shailer for a zoom mindfulness session at 10.30 am today. Simply email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details (before 10 am).

Happy?

happy

Considering everything, how happy are you today?

Don’t despair if you rated yourself as not happy. All things change and there will be a day when you will rate yourself otherwise.

There are things we can do to move towards becoming happier. We are all individuals so one size doesn’t fit all. But understanding ourselves is part of the journey and a good place to start. Wherever you put yourself on the happiness scale today, ask ‘What makes me truly happy?’

Skip the glib answers about winning the lottery or marrying royalty.

You might want to mull your answers to that question over a few days.

And then what? “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” (Dalai Lama) Over to you.

This is Thoughtful Thursday on 14 May 2020.

Join on zoom for a virtual mindfulness session 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.

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.

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.