I’d like to invite you to have tea with me, to sit down and share a hot drink with me, right now. Pop the kettle on, and while you’re filling it notice the sound of the running water, feel the weight of the kettle in your hand. Smell the teabag before you drop it into your mug. When you pour the boiling water over it, again notice the sound of the pouring water, smell the aroma of the tea. If you’re getting milk out of the fridge, feel the coolness of the carton or bottle in your hand. 

Then sit down, holding the hot mug in your hands, if it’s not too hot. Before you take a sip, smell it. When you do take a sip, notice the flavour in your mouth, feel the warmth of the fluid, follow that warmth down your throat. How far down can you feel it go?

What we’ve been doing, as we share this cup of tea, is using the senses to bring us into the present moment. Mindfulness is essentially that. And while you’re doing that you can’t be dwelling on the past or fretting about the future. What a blessed relief!

There’s another crucial dimension, especially when we’re struggling in dark times, and that is the element of compassion, particularly self-compassion. When we sit down with a hot drink, we’re giving ourselves the time and space to do that. It’s an act of self-nurture. 

We can enhance that by setting it as our intention. Sometimes, if I notice I’m struggling, that on some level I’m suffering, I’ll recognise that I need to self-nurture, I need to be kind to myself. The simple act of making my favourite hot drink can become just such a moment of self-care.

There are obviously different levels of struggling and suffering and equally there are many different acts of self-compassion. My Selfie Hug practice has proved very popular on Insight Timer, the free meditation app. When we need a hug, the one person we can rely on to give us one is ourselves. Have a go – the link is below for you.

When we’re in the midst of the darkest depression or a dark night of the soul, we need to be very realistic about what we can manage. We need to be gentle with ourselves. We still need to keep the basics going, like sleeping and eating. I devised the Beans on Toast mindfulness practice for just such times. It’s a way of bringing awareness and self-care into fixing ourselves an easy meal. The principle of the practice is exactly the same as making that cup of tea but with beans on toast instead. Remember to really focus on all of the senses as you go through the process of heating the beans, toasting the bread and then sitting down to eat them. Remember too, that making them is an act of self-care. You’re bringing kindness to your mindfulness; kindfulness.

Here are the links for The Selfie Hug, another instance of kindfulness in action. You can either download the Insight Timer app or listen to it on my website: https://insighttimer.com/catherinelucas & http://www.catherine-g-lucas.com/free-mindfulness.html Have a go right now!

Author Biog: Catherine G Lucas is the author of four books on the holistic approach to mental health. Her latest in the Sheldon Press Mindful Way series is out now: Life Crisis: the Mindful Way (includes the Selfie Hug and Beans on Toast practices mentioned in this blog post). In her writing, Catherine draws on both her personal and professional experience, as a mindfulness trainer.