Swindon Celebrates International Women’s Day 8 March 2014

IWD2014Poster

Once again the women of Swindon are gathering to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March.

A packed programme of workshops, art and craft displays, talks, poetry recitals, singing and dancing is planned to take place around the Central Library and Art Galleries adjacent to Regent’s Circus.

The theme of the day is RESPECT NOT VIOLENCE – taking a stand against violence against women – and the Balloon Launch at 1pm will represent the hopes of Swindon’s men and women that RESPECT will always win through.

I’ll be running a short journaling workshop at 1.30 on the 2nd floor of the Library – so come along and learn how to discover your inner icon through reflective writing.

Look forward to seeing you!

 

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Lessons from Milner – expressing thoughts in their wholeness

Uh-oh.

It’s not quite been 20 years but there is something of the Rip van Winkle about the sleepiness of this blog.

Since reading Marion Milner my approach to journaling has shifted. And it has resulted in my living more – and writing less.

This has always been a conundrum for me. Reflective practice ought not to stifle action. It ought to stimulate action and ensure its enhanced authenticity. Being a lover of action I guess I’d always felt a bit awkward about the reflective bit and have always wanted to strike a respectable balance between the two.

Through Milner I have discovered a fascinating journaling trick which has been like super-charging my life with lightning.

Here’s what she says:

“I must learn to maintain a vigilance, not against wrong thoughts but against refusal to recognise any thought.”

At first I didn’t want to accept that I too may have been refusing to recognise certain of my thoughts. But then when I did, and when I then began to express those thoughts in my journal, things really started to shift in my outer life.

Our inner censors are so insidious and wily. No matter how articulate we are in talking about them, no matter how aware we are of their strange potential to sabotage us, they always find a way to sneak under the radar.

I noticed my inner censor was acting all rational on me. And who doesn’t want to be rational, right? But it was hiding in plain sight, making me think that rational is good, rational is me – when all along it jolly well isn’t.

My inner censor was stopping me from dreaming, and even though dream-like thoughts would nudge at me these were typically not the ones I would write about.

Suddenly when I took Milner’s advice things started to happen. It felt different to express all my thoughts – especially the ones that my inner censor would have been carefully corralling previously. But the results have been transformational.

Try it. Don’t let your inner censor lull you to sleep. Pay attention to the dreams you have when you’re awake. Be vigilant. Be alive.

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Swindon Philosophical Society meets Marion Milner

Only 2 hours to go from right now before I begin speaking at Swindon Philo – and sharing my admiration and excitement about the extraordinary British polymath, writer, artist, and psychoanalyst Marion Milner 1900 – 1998.

More to follow…

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Give the gift of journaling this Christmas

Take a moment to think about your closest friends. What’s the gift that would be perfect for them this Christmas?

For most of us we wish our friends happiness, health and peace of mind – so why not give them the gift of journaling this year, and help them discover their inner wisdom and resourcefulness for a happy, healthy and peaceful life?Give the gift of journaling this Christmas

Bundled up with a handmade notebook and pen The Journal Writer’s Handbook is the perfect gift for anyone who wants to make 2014 their best year yet. It contains exercises and prompts to encourage even the most nervous of writers, and lots of examples of how others have used their journals to uncover incredible insights about their own experience.

NB. Notebook and pen not included!

You can buy the Handbook direct from me  if you’re in the UK and I’ll be sure you receive your copies straightaway. Just go ahead and click on the book image to the right and start solving your Christmas gift quandaries today!

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What has journaling helped you achieve?

I’m curious. For all you dyed-in-the-wool journal writers out there – what are the things that you have made possible for yourself just by keeping a regular reflective record of your thoughts and experience?

Maybe it’s something small but incremental. Or maybe it’s something way more significant and challenging.

Recently I got some feedback from one reader that The Journal Writer’s Handbook had made her think so differently about what she was doing with her life post-retirement that she went out and booked a 3 month round the world cruise. Wow.

And another reader who struggles with insomnia was simply delighted to have had a good night’s sleep after spending a few minutes scribbling down her thoughts before turning out the light.

For me the reflective way has helped me cure my back pain, supported me through times of grief and disappointment, and continues to inspire me with new ideas for writing.

So over to you – what would you never have done without your journal?

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Are you an expressive or reflective journal writer?

It’s interesting to pay attention to our thinking around our journal writing practice.

As you approach your journal, do you know what you’re going to write about? Are you recording bits and pieces from your day, a snippet of conversation, a joke you heard, an interesting person you met who made you think?

Or do you dive in and just allow your pen to move across the page, without any premeditated direction or intentional end point?

It’s delicious to spend time writing and finish up somewhere unexpected, or simply in a place of deep satisfaction. I suspect this is more achievable when we do no more than express our thoughts as opposed to reflect on them.

But the distinction between expression and reflection is subtle. And it all starts with how aware we are of our thought process – and how quickly we are moved to interpret our thinking.

I recently realised that much of my journal writing was governed by my need to understand and rationalise what occurs in my experience. As a result much of what I wrote was already heavily censored before it reached the page. Of course I am very adept at tricking myself that what I am writing is authentic expression – but so much has already happened in my cognition before the pen makes its mark.

So I tried a different approach. Instead of sub-consciously crafting my words ahead of sitting down with my journal I decided to face up to what I was really thinking about, and write that down instead.

The results have been remarkable.

Firstly I can see that much of what I think about is pretty trivial. This is very humbling – and means that I can relax a bit out of my self-imposed intellectualisations. I’m just human after all – who knew?

Secondly I noticed an intense period of dreaming. As if my sub-conscious mind had been unleashed, and was determined to show me its wisdom. What was interesting was also that using my journal to record my dreams was good practice in just expressing the thoughts that were in my head, without analysis and reflection. When I found myself writing about a gentleman trying to teach a red setter to play golf I knew that I was beginning to permit myself to write anything without interpreting it first!

Thirdly I’ve noticed an increased facility with the language I’m using to describe my thoughts and experiences. This is great news for a writer! The words seem to be coming from a different place – an embodied place rather than an intellectual place. I love this particularly because I’m fascinated and encouraged by the physical, intuitive intelligence of my body. And now it’s helping me improve my vocabulary – awesome!

So what do you need to do to become more expressive in your journal? Free-writing, dream-recording and simply paying attention to the actual thoughts that occupy us are useful first steps.

Go play – and let me know how you get on!

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The art of letter writing

When I was a student living in Spain, well before the days of email and mobile phones, writing letters home was my way not only of keeping in touch with those I loved but also of reflecting on my experience. For a time letter-writing was just like keeping a journal.

These days we are more likely to use electronic forms of communication – and what we are gaining in speed and immediacy we are perhaps losing in connection.

When I write a letter I hold the person to whom I’m writing entirely in my mind’s eye, and craft my words in a way that I feel will be most meaningful to them. It’s the ultimate exercise in writing for an audience, but it’s also an opportunity to see what words show up to describe how we really feel.

In personal letters we can send a heartfelt message, interwoven with our kindest intentions for the recipient, and add another connecting thread into the global skein of human consciousness. I picture handwritten letters criss-crossing the surface of the earth, the products of our myriad physical acts of moving our hand across the page, translating the thoughts in our minds into inky and intelligible shapes on paper. There really is no wonder at all why it always feels so special to receive a hand-written letter, given the complex physiology and psychology involved in the process, and the special link that is forged as a result.

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