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.

It will pass

weathers

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.

Golden rule for living?

Golden rule for living

Is there a golden rule for living? If so, what is it?

In a virtual mindfulness session last week, a participant shared what does indeed seem to be a golden rule: ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’

You can put the rule positively as the participant did. Or you can put it negatively i.e. ‘Do not do to others as you wouldn’t want done to you.’ Or you could express it responsively ‘What you do to others, will be done to you’.

An updated expression might read ‘Treat everyone you meet as if they were you’. And as with all the expressions there is an assumption of a healthy self-image.

The participant commented that it came from the Bible. Indeed it does. It is part of Judaism and Christianity. It is actually also part of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Confusianism – and Humanism, to name a few religions and a culture.

Mindfulness is simply practicing awareness of ourselves, others and all that surrounds us. As you notice your actions today (and the thoughts that preceded those actions), reflect on them in the light of this golden rule.

Enjoy your discovery; don’t beat yourself up. There’s gold in the discovery.

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.