Signed, sealed, delivered, forgotten?


A recent study demonstrated that writing about an emotionally-laden event, and then sealing the piece of paper in an envelope, seems to help us put the memories behind us.

The study, by Li, Wei and Soman (Psychological Science, August 2010) points to the beneficial physical action of writing about events in order to gain emotional closure on them. The metaphorical act of sealing the envelope, it seems, is critical. Continue reading




The naming of things is a wonderful thing to witness in a young child. First words: mummy, daddy, car (even poppadum, in the case of one of my friends’ kids). Early on, a child learns the boundaries between Me and Not-Me, Self and Others. Later in life, language can define our thinking.

“Looking and seeing both start with sense perception, but there the similarity ends. When I ‘look’ at the world and label its phenomena, I make immediate choices, instant appraisals – I like or I dislike, I accept or reject, what I look at, according to its usefulness to the “Me” … this me that I imagine myself to be, and that I try to impose on others … When, on the other hand, I see – suddenly I am all eyes, I forget this Me, am liberated from it and dive into the reality of what confronts me, become part of it, participate in it. I no longer label, no longer choose. (“Choosing is the sickness of the mind,” says a sixth-century Chinese sage.)” Frederick Franck, The Zen of Seeing Continue reading

Guilt-free creativity


Guilt is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “a feeling of having committed wrong or failed in an obligation”.

I often think that feeling guilty often goes hand in hand with being creative. Time spent on art, writing, photography and thinking can feel like time stolen from other more pressing issues.

Since the days of the Industrial Revolution, productivity and efficiency have been prized by society and organisations. Continue reading

A tourist in your own town


“Writers write about things that other people don’t pay much attention to. For instance, our tongues, elbows, water coming out of a water faucet, the kind of garbage trucks New York City has, the color purple of a faded sign in a small town … A writer’s job is to make the ordinary come alive, to awaken ourselves to the specialness of simply being.” Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down The Bones

I think that what is true for writers is true for other creative people. I think it can be true for anyone who practises mindfulness. We can do this by actually paying attention, instead of rushing ferociously and diagonally through the days and months and years. Continue reading

Tasting life twice


“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.” Anais Nin

I hesitate to admit it, but I have kept a journal pretty consistently for over 30 years now. It’s quite fun to read my 20 year-old self’s perspective on life. About the shock to the system of being a parent to newborns through to teenagers. And, more recently, to having some space to myself again.

There are moments when I have written to be angry, to grieve, to shout out on the page that someone shouldn’t have done something. When I read back through those moments, I am instantly transported to that precise emotion and its context. I also notice that when I gain a little distance from whatever event sparked the outburst, that I begin to examine what was really going on. Was it really all someone else’s fault? Usually not. Usually, I’d played a significant part in the proceedings too. Continue reading