Peaceful?

Peaceful?

Peaceful. Calm. Tranquil.

It’s an attractive place to be. None of us would probably claim to be there most of the time but we probably catch glimpses now and then.

Sometimes arriving at a place of peace isn’t a ‘non-doing’, resting process but one of action. Martin Luther King said, ‘True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.’

There are some things in life that we can do nothing to influence. When we accept this and let them go – as best we can – we may find peace.

There are other things in life that we accept as reality but also identify that we need to act – do something – to change them.

It’s a life’s journey separating the two, which is why Niebuhr’s serenity prayer remains relevant:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

Join a virtual evening of mindfulness tonight 8 March 2021 at 7 pm (UK time) on the theme of acceptance and change. Email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details.

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.

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.

Make a choice

Whether we are US citizens or not, many of us will have been watching the American election results this week as Biden inched forward and duly became the President Elect.

Depending on our politics, we may be elated, disappointed – or just plain relieved. The twists and turns were for me high emotion. And during the week I found I had to make choices.

I had to make a choice to limit my exposure to the news. Why? Because the twists and turns were overly controlling my emotions. Sound familiar? Some of us might also have found this when following news of the coronavirus pandemic.

We can each make choices to improve our wellbeing. Sometimes this includes what we allow to dominate our thoughts. I am drawn back to a saying attributed to Martin Luther – wisdom crossing centuries: “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”

Take notice. Make wise choices.

This is Mindful Monday on 9 November.

Join others for a virtual mindfulness gathering on Monday 16 November, 7-8.15 pm (UK time). Simply email hello@essencecheltenham.org for details.

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.