Step by step

Pace yourself

Pacing ourselves isn’t easy.

It can be a challenge to plan how to do tasks in such a way that we are not stressed by them i.e. we schedule doing a task for when we have enough time and energy.

It can be an even bigger challenge to decide whether we are up to tackling a particular task in the first place. We may identify something as a ‘must do’ task when in fact it is a ‘nice to do if time/energy’ task.

Pacing becomes vital – and yet somehow more difficult! – at times when we are unwell, including experiencing increased physical pain or poor mental health.

So what helps us pace ourselves well?

Prioritise self care. Doing this will in fact put us in the best place to also care for others. It’s one of those ‘about face’ things!

Review the ‘must do’ tasks to identify those that we can move out of the ‘must do’. Sometimes we need help from a friend to do this. Alternatively, writing down what we are trying to do in a list can enable us to then revisit that list and identify those tasks that are essential to do and those that are not – we may find none of them are when we see them in black and white!

Learning to pace ourselves – in different situations and phases of our lives – is a life skill. Let’s keep learning. What we learn will help us journey towards being contented in all circumstances.

This is Mindful Monday on 16 August 2021.

Love (you)

Step by step

To seek to love others seems universally accepted, although we may all draw the line differently on whom we choose to seek to love. And we probably all agree that love is wonderful but also complicated.

To seek to love ourselves may receive a more mixed response. Many may react with diffidence.

And yet how we perceive – and treat – ourselves (loved or unloved) has a big impact on how we perceive – and treat – others (to love or not to love).

Religious traditions and ancient and present-day cultures share common ground on emphasising the need to love and care for yourself and those around you: ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’

We’ve just had Valentine’s Day, mercifully marked with less commercialism due to lockdown! Some may love the day; others may detest the day. For me this year I was drawn to reflect on the source of love – the Divine: ‘we love because God first loved us.’ It is experiencing being loved – for me, with a love stronger than any human being could possibly show – that makes it possible to keeping taking steps towards (albeit with hesitancy at times) loving myself and thereby being more able to love others.

This is Mindful Monday on 15 February 2021. Join others for an evening of virtual mindfulness on Monday 8 March, 7pm (UK time). Just email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details. There is no charge.

Extreme wintering

Aligning with nature’s seasons

Live in each season as it passes;
breathe the air,
drink the drink,
taste the fruit,
and resign yourself
to the influence of each.

Henry David Thoreau

For many of us winter may be the hardest season in which to be present; we may be more inclined to be more accepting of Spring, Summer and Autumn.

Winter plus lockdown seem to be taking it to the extreme. We are likely to be even more aware than usual of shorter days, the cold, and the rain – and the sense of isolation (even hibernation) that the season engenders.

It feels rather enforced this winter in the UK. But if we can accept the season as it is – rather than just willing Spring to come – we may find we can benefit from it.

How? Join with nature by slowing down the pace and prioritising rest: this might even mean you find you go to bed earlier and rise later. Sense the season outdoors by looking, smelling, listening and touching to see the changes to nature including on those oh so familiar walks. Eat seasonal foods; there is design in what is in season and the nutrition our bodies need. Be thankful for warmth and shelter – this is easy to do as we move from the outdoors to the indoors at this time of year.

Reflect for you (the unique and special person you are) what the season might be suggesting to you: learn from the season rather than willing it be gone!

This is Mindful Monday on 25 January 2021.

Join with others for an evening of mindfulness at 7-8.15 pm on Monday 8 February. Simply email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details.

Perspectives follow us

This is a story about a traveller. (With so many of us on lockdown, it’s a tantalising thought just to be a traveller I know.)

On arrival in a new country, the traveller asks an old man, “What are the people like in this country?” The old man asks, “How do you find the people in your country?” The traveller replies, “They are kind and hospitable.” Smiling gently, the old man replies, “You’ll find the people of this country to be so too.”

Later in the day another traveller asks the same question of the old man. Once again, the old man asks, “How do you find the people in your country?” The traveller replies, “They are always fighting and completely inhospitable.” The old man answers, “I’m afraid you’ll find the people of this country to be the same.”

This is Mindful Monday on 23 November 2020.

You are invited to an evening of mindfulness on zoom on Monday 7 December at 7-8.15 pm. Simply email hello@essencecheltenham.org for joining details.

Freedom

“The last of human freedoms – the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.”

In these Covid-19 days, the focus is on restrictions in our way of life. The word ‘freedoms’ is welcome, like a shaft of light in a dark space.

The quotation is from a book that you may have heard of. I finished reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl this week and its rich content around hope from the Holocaust will cause me to re-read it again.

I like the emphasis on each of us having choices in our attitude, even if our circumstances are beyond our control. Frankl asserts, “A human being is a deciding being.”

I am sure that you – like me – are all too aware of aspects of life you cannot control. Yet you – like me – have choices you can make in your response i.e. your attitude.

Frankl doesn’t imply choosing an attitude is easy; just that it is possible and worthwhile. Our wellbeing depends upon it.

Whatever our circumstances (or UK regional tier!), let’s start by being thankful for what we do have. It is a good choice to make.

In such a ‘serious book’, I also like the suggestion that having a chuckle at ourselves is good for our wellbeing.

We are in tough times. Let’s exercise that freedom to choose our attitude. Let’s make good choices and keep a touch of levity in the mix!

This is Mindful Monday on 19 October 2020.

Join a zoom mindfulness session next Monday evening (26 October) at 7 pm til 8.15 pm. Email hello@essencecheltenham.org to receive details.

Be strong

Upbeat? Downbeat? In between?

Whatever your mood and situation, being thankful for the good things you have is a winner!

Louis Armstrong includes trees, roses, blue skies, white clouds, rainbow colours, people’s faces, the sounds of the next generation and friends shaking hands in his song about thankfulness, What a Wonderful World. In these covid times we need to skip the last item but we can wave instead!

Be thankful. Name what you are thankful for as you go through each day. You will be stronger for it.

This is Mindful Monday on 14 September 2020. Dates for virtual mindfulness sessions open to all coming soon!

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.