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!

Sensing

Sight is an amazing sense. To be able to look and see what is around us is a gift. But what we see can become our ‘dominant’ sense, reducing our use of our other senses.

Whether outdoors or indoors  – in a safe place – take a few minutes to be still and nurture your other senses. Shut your eyes.

Listen. Notice the sounds you can hear.

Smell. Notice any smells – you may be surprised what comes to your nostrils when you are intentionally noticing smells!

Taste. This may sound strange, as this is not an eating meditation, but is there any ‘taste’ in the air? Classics for me are walking past a clump of wild garlic or being by the sea. It is ‘as if’ I taste them.

Feel. It is likely your fingers are in contact with something. Notice the texture of what they are touching. It might be your other hand, the clothes you are wearing, the arms of a chair. Pay attention also to any feeling on other parts of your skin, such as the sun or wind on your face.

This is just a few minutes of your day but it will awaken your senses, helping you to ‘sense’ more widely through the activities of the rest of the day.

This practice will also make you thankful for the gift of all your senses, so precious and yet all too often passing us by.

This is Mindful Monday on 7 September 2020.

Sandstorm coming up?

sandstorm

Alice Morrison has just completed a trek of about 1,000 miles across the Sahara on foot. I heard an interview with her on TV this weekend and was struck by two things: her need to learn patience and acceptance, and her interdependence on others, including complete strangers.

I have no plans to trek the Sahara, climb Everest or navigate the Zambezi. Sandstorms, altitude sickness or crocodiles are unlikely to be among my challenges this week.

And yet as I look at my week coming up and the challenges within it, cultivating an attitude of patience and acceptance seems highly relevant! Plans will not always happen as I hoped; there will be obstacles. This is true for all of us, different as our lives may be.

Alice and her companions would not have survived without water from nomads and the Moroccan military. Water here in the UK is an issue of being too plentiful rather than scarce. My heart goes out to all of you suffering from the effects of floods. My prayer is that you will receive help  – even from complete strangers – as Alice did.

I doubt my week will be extreme. But in the routine of my week, I plan to notice the times I am interdependent. Recognising how other people support us with what seem the small things of the everyday shows us that we not islands but part of an intricate web of people. Together we are stronger. Let’s practise humility in our need of others and be grateful to them for their help.

Join me this week to approach challenges with patience and acceptance and be grateful for the support of people, family, friends and indeed complete strangers.

Want to find out more about Alice’s adventures in the Sahara? Here’s her blog

This is Mindful Monday on 2 March 2020.

Join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening of mindfulness at the Oasis in Cheltenham on Monday 16 March, 7.30-9.30 pm. To book your place or ask any questions, email hello@essencecheltenham.org

 

Cuppa?

mug picture

Like me, do you ever find yourself checking if you have drunk your cuppa or not, only to find it empty? You drank it but didn’t notice doing so!

Sometimes we are scarcely aware as we eat and drink – and because we are not aware, we are not thankful for what we eat and drink

Here’s a meditation to do with a cuppa: increase your awareness; be thankful.

Look at the liquid as if you have never seen anything like it before.

Pay attention to seeing it. (Pause)

Note the colour of it. (Pause)

And now smell the liquid, moving the cup gently beneath your nose, and with each inbreath, carefully noticing the smell of it, if any. (Pause)

And now taking another look at it. (Pause)

And now slowly taking the cup to your mouth, maybe noticing how your hand and arm know exactly where to put it, perhaps noticing your mouth watering as it comes up. (Pause)

And then slowly taking a sip, noticing how your lips reach out to sip it, and hold the liquid in your mouth.

Notice the tastes you can experience in your mouth.

And when you are ready, very consciously swallow it. (Pause)

See if you can follow the sensations of swallowing it, sensing the liquid down in your stomach.

This is Mindful Monday on 11 March 2019.

Join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening of mindfulness on the theme of growing in patience on Monday 25 March at the Oasis, Cheltenham. Book your place by emailing hello@essencecheltenham.org (no charge but make a donation towards room hire on the night if you are able).

The wonder of water

 

wonder of water

Water can look so different, according to the setting, whether it is fresh or salt water, and indeed what is reflected in it.

I found it fascinating seeing how three teams of model railway enthusiasts went about using actual water or alternative materials to represent water in a competition for Channel 5 this week (The Great Model Railway Challenge). While I am not a model railway enthusiast, I enjoyed the skills and the choices the enthusiasts made – albeit with mixed results!

The sight of water can be refreshing, whether in a river, a lake or the sea – and even in the raindrops!

We also use it every day, here in the UK pouring from our taps. We wash in it, brush our teeth with it, drink it and cook with it.

Join me this week and practice thankfulness for the water we have both in the sights and the uses that refresh us.

This is Mindful Monday on 5 November 2018.

If you live in or near Cheltenham, join us for an evening of mindfulness on the theme of ‘growing in joy’ on Monday 3 December.

Thankfulness with Louis

skies of blue and clouds of whhite

I live in a town but frequently drive through or walk through the countryside. And friends grow fruit and veg, and at the moment have more than enough to share! So that makes me aware that harvest time is here.

It has made me think of Louis Armstrong’s fantastic song ‘What a Wonderful World’. Here are the lyrics (go on, have a sing!)

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world

I wonder what you would include in your own version of these lyrics? What do you see that – even on an average kind of day – makes you thankful? I bet it is the simpler things in life, things that are more valuable than money can ever buy.

I am leading a Harvest service in a few weeks. We will listen to this song and reflect on what makes it a wonderful world for each of us. And we will be thankful. We will go on to reflect on the Maker of All Things who is good. And we will be thankful.

This is Mindful Monday on 10 September 2018.

Dates available shortly for Essence Cheltenham mindfulness gatherings this autumn!