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.

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.

 

 

When’s it all going to be over?

Adjusting to challenging change

Change happens. It can be a change we perceive negatively or positively. Either way we will each go through a journey in adjusting to a change.

Often it is possible to put a timeframe on a change. We can think to ourselves “[difficult or happy change] will all be over by [date]”. Putting a timeframe on a change – even if it turns out to be a moving timeframe and we are incorrect – helps us to cope with the change.

We are all adjusting to our lives in the midst of a global pandemic. It is a time of change that is particularly challenging because realistically we can’t put a timeframe on it.

To manage challenging change we need to take extra care of ourselves (and if we do take care of ourselves, we may then be able to help others).

As individuals and because we have different calls on our energy, we will each experience adjusting to the changes in our lives differently. Yet common for many of us will be denial and resistance: “this can’t be happening” or “it isn’t fair”.

Accepting that change is hard to adjust to is in fact part of the adjustment! Hear yourself if this is where you are at. If you find journaling useful, note your disbelief and your fight reflex. Talk to others about it. Be courageous by being honest about where you are – and this will help others to do the same.

As we notice and accept our reactions, we are starting to manage the change, reducing the stress of it. You could choose to spend 10 minutes a day writing down your reactions to the situation. As you do, you are likely to gain fresh insights. You will be learning. You will be wiser.

Definitely make a decision to give attention to your basic needs: eat, move, sleep. When we are in times of uncertainty – and one without an end date – it is easy to neglect our basic needs. Don’t. Give them attention.

Change happens – but we can influence how well we are in the midst of it.. Be well.

This is Thoughtful Thursday on 16 April 2020.

New year

Choices on the horizon

Happy new year! It is a new year – and a new decade. 2020 somehow sounds significant, like the year 2000 felt significant.

And yet 1 January 2020 was a day when the sun rose and set just like any day. We gave it significance through the date system we use.

This made me think about my choices on what I think is significant and what I don’t. Each of our choices are unique to ourselves. They are based on our own beliefs and values, sometimes shared widely with others and sometimes not.

Being aware of what we deem to be significant and what we don’t is useful. It is worth our time to identify what is significant to us right now. Why? Because what we deem to be significant will influence the choices we make on how we spend our energies this day.

Being aware and making choices based on that awareness will aid each of us in living lives of meaning, lives of purpose.

Sure there is ‘the routine stuff’ in our days with which we engage. If we don’t identify what is significant to us, the routine stuff will fill our horizons. If we identify what is significant to us – and pursue this as best as we can – we can choose (at times at least) to give priority to that which is significant. The journey of awareness has gold within it.

This is Mindful Monday on 6 January 2020.

If you live in Cheltenham or nearby, join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening of mindfulness at the Oasis at 7.30-9 pm on Monday 3 February 2020. To book your place email hello@essencecheltenham.org