The best of resolutions

Happy new year!

A new year. This can be a time we make resolutions about how we want to live in the year to come.

As I have reflected I have come back to sacred writings from approaching a mere trimillennium ago. (Yup, that’s approaching three thousand years ago!).

To act justly and to love mercy

    and to walk humbly with your God.

The Bible, Micah 6:8

Desmond Tutu is an amazing example of living this way. He defended the rights of others; he showed compassion. Watching clips of his funeral, I found his cheap pine coffin a powerful reminder of his humility. He is an example of living well in what he did but also in who he was. I think it was his awareness of being a human being (not a human doing!) that made him quick to laugh – and quick to cry.

It’s a good direction of travel for the year ahead. And you?

This is Mindful Monday on 3 January 2022.

Recognise misconceptions

Observe your perceptions to recognise misconceptions

Walking along a country lane, I brushed my arm against stinging nettles. Here goes with a rash. Indeed, I could feel the rash starting.

Reading an email, I saw confusion about the date of an event. This is going to take quite some unwinding.

Heading out the door on an overcast day, I put on my fleece. It’s bound to be cold outdoors.

The reality of all these events was different from my perception. The vegetation I brushed my arm against was not stinging nettles and a rash did not appear. When I read the email more carefully, there was no confusion about the date of an event. Although overcast, it was in fact very warm outdoors and I quickly removed my fleece.

These are three little reminders that my immediate perception in a situation is not necessarily reality. Learning to reflect, to pause, just for a moment, has value.

With gentleness, let’s observe our perceptions of situations during today. Then we will recognise misconceptions more quickly, enabling us to engage more fully with ourselves, those around us and the world.

This is Mindful Monday on 27 September 2021.

Get wise(r)

A year into lockdown, it still feels that there are many different worlds. These are not based on the geography of where we live.

Rather the worlds are shaped by a myriad of things like the make-up of our household, the demands (or otherwise) on our skills and our time, our sense of financial security (or otherwise) – and most fundamentally the wellbeing – or otherwise – of ourselves and those we love.

We may not have any choice over the situations we are in, but we can learn to respond to them as skilfully as possible.

Learning how to pace ourselves in whatever situation we find ourselves is a vital skill. It’s a lifetime of learning.

Take a minute today, sitting or walking, to notice messages your body is giving you. Our physical make-up tells us so much, if only we will pause to hear.

Listen to these messages, with gentleness. Don’t judge yourself. Accept what you find.

Just by noticing – listening – you will be the wiser; you will be better equipped to approach whatever situation you find yourself in today.

And when we take a step forward in listening to ourselves, it may actually equip us to better hear other people. It may also equip us to recognise the voice of our creator in what we hear. We are wonderfully made, with feedback loops that tell us how to pace ourselves.

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.

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.

Perfectly imperfect

As many of us prepare to celebrate Christmas, we probably have expressed – or unexpressed – perceptions of what a perfect Christmas looks like. And if we don’t, ads, the media and even friends and family are ready to share their snapshots of perfectionism.

Let’s be aware of our high expectations. Let’s also be open to questioning our expectations.

Seeking perfectionism often equates with high stress levels. And because we are who we are – and those around us are who they are – a perfect celebration is impossible to achieve.

And yet the beauty – the joy – sometimes comes from the imperfect bits. It may just be my cooking but the shared laughter at the obvious differences between the recipe’s ‘marketing’ picture and the reality on the table is an example! Or perhaps you welcome an extra guest that throws the table plan and requires the use of that ‘wobbly’ chair – or this year perhaps eating in the outdoors, due to covid restrictions?!

Don’t allow the desire for perfectionism to take over. Accept the imperfect – in you and around you – intentionally noticing it and at times celebrating it.

The Japanese use a phrase wabi-sabi for a world view that includes accepting imperfection and appreciating beauty within it.

Let’s relax and breath; let’s enjoy what is so often the perfectly imperfect.

This is Mindful Monday on 14 December 2020. Look out for 2021 dates for virtual sessions.

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.