Practicing mindfulness through letter writing opens the heart and brings forth truth, empathy and understanding — for all ages
The most difficult letter that I ever had to write was the letter I read at my sister’s funeral. That moment, saturated in tears, paled in comparison to the phone call I received only days before from my mother. As she shrieked into the phone, “Donna is dead,” I felt my heart break and my life crack in two.
Transformation has to start somewhere. For days after my sister’s tragic passing, I was mired in words unspoken and hurts held onto. As the sorrow was attempting to swallow me up I heard the small voice inside directing me to writing her a letter. In front of hundreds of grieving mourners, I applied the best technique I had to connect with the all of the good that was my sister on the day that the world was honoring her life.
Being aware of the present moment and noticing feelings as they come and go is the heart of mindful living.
Intention, expansion of the spirit, and mindfulness all start with a thought or an emotion. The attention you give to that thought nourishes it and brings it to fruition. Does it feel good? Does it feel bad? Are you well-wishing or hate-mongering? Once awake, sleepwalking becomes much more difficult to accomplish. In the beginning, acting and remaining mindful may seem impossible. We aimlessly wander, keeping our sorrow stuffed away, striving for something tangible that will prove our journey was valuable — that it counted. It all mattered.
It is here, right smack in the middle of misery, that we can choose to stop and restart. Although it may be painful and feel enormously overwhelming, the movement to a conscious, more mindful way of living is critical for humanity. Transitioning from the sleepwalking mentality to igniting purposeful intention takes bravery. Yet, it is simple and courageous. Awakening requires one to look at the areas of their life that do not match their vision. It often starts with the question of “where have I gone wrong?” in order to be on the course to unleashing the authentic, contributing self. Mindfulness takes a commitment to freeing oneself from the stranglehold of unconsciousness.
We move from life on autopilot to understanding and remembering why we have come here. This frees and propels us toward real success.
In The Letter Writing Project (Blooming Twig Books), I demonstrate how to use letter writing to create an enhanced mindful existence. Letter writing gave me a tool and an outlet to heal the gut-wrenching pain of my sister’s death. I used it to figure out how I felt and why I was so insanely angry with myself. I kept peeling back the layers until all that remained was the honest truth. There on the paper, in my own words and handwriting, was the reason for my newly accepted self-hatred. I had been deeply hurt by my sister one month prior to her passing and was too chickenshit to acknowledge it. I let it lie and fester — an unspoken rift between two sisters. So silly and ridiculous, yet significant enough to allow silent brooding…all by me, completely and utterly by me with the help of my fragile ego.
Letter writing is a deeply reflective action that, when done with pristine intention, can bring profound results. It can help us to heal a relationship as well as understand more clearly who we are and what is important for happiness in our lives. As I reflected upon my life for months after my sister’s passing, it became obvious that our world needs more letters. We will grow, heal, and expand through this revitalized movement of letter writing. Imagine more letters of love, gratitude, caring, generosity, and honesty being passed from person to person all around the world. It will help us emerge from a world of sleepwalkers to walking lightly and lovingly, with positive intention swirling out of our pens into the hearts of others.
My sister wrote me a short note after a near-death scare we had with our mother just four months prior to the accident. I lived my entire life vigorously seeking Donna’s approval. Then, one day, only a few months before I would never see her again, she wrote me the words I had been waiting to hear:
I was just texting Tim (husband) how mom is, and I found myself writing what
a great job you are doing and how grateful I am that you are with her.
Thought I should tell you. I don’t say enough how I see the hard work you do
for others. But I do see it. Mom is very fortunate and so are your children. Love, Don
I have read and reread this set of sentences a hundred times. I waited four and a half decades to hear words like that come out of my sister. In later days, this letter gave me the strength I would need to power on as the only remaining daughter for my broken-hearted mother. It was and remains a gift.
The letter writing movement can and will change the world for the better. It is a tool to lift people up and connect them to the greater good. I share my experience as testament to what is at risk if we remain inactive and asleep.
Do not behave as I did. Do not let a dear-hearted being leave this world with words stuck in your mouth because you are too afraid to release them.
It is here where a mindfulness practice can be of enormous benefit. Once you encounter that tiny glimmer of awareness that there may be a better path, you can consider yourself to be fully immersed. Once you dip a toe into a pool of mindfulness, you can become completely soaked in the potential of all that there is to create. The beauty is that you can never go back to not knowing. Once you know, you begin to pay attention to the small things around you. How things feel, how your words land, how your heart begs for understanding, how you have followed the mind-numbing rules put upon you by someone else instead of remembering who you are and the gifts you provide to the rest of us, simply by being you.
It also gifted me with a spark and a passionate purpose: to advocate and ignite the youth of the world. Life was breathed in where a void had once been.
Our beautiful young people, full of energy and the notion of being invincible, are victims of adult sleepwalking. We teach kids early on that there is no such thing as hope, faith, and a belief in the possibility attached to the unknown. Instead we show them what it feels like to fail at an early age, when they receive their first set of grades.
We teach kids math, science, literature, reading and writing, leaving out character development and consciousness — these two basic constructs that can create the most positive, peaceful life are left to chance.
Teenagers as a group are hurting. Their lives are filled with constant connection to devices that keep them disconnected and alone. There is no way for them to truly get help without being labeled a snitch and suffering repercussions. They brave the young adult world every day with a tiny sparkle inside of their heart that stays only dimly lit for fear of not being accepted.
Dear Parents of Today and Tomorrow,
Guess what? When you bought your child that new smartphone and decided that you don’t need to regularly check what they are doing on it, you made the distinct decision to pay for and provide unlimited access to a private world that allows your child to experience violence, sex, hatred, and negativity without monitoring any of it. Why would you do this?
We, the adult collective, are failing the teens. We are allowing their lives to get deeply disconnected from their inner truth.
They are the group with the most energy, excitement, sense of adventure, and the ability to take risks and run free, yet we only give them school and a brief smattering of after-school clubs. This collection of wondrous beings is left to their own demise; influenced by the visual stimuli that bombards their beautiful minds and souls. Teens are the most free and willing to soar, as their brains are perfectly constructed for exploration. Society’s detached adults have crafted a fruitless, hopeless scenario for these beauties. We continue to perpetuate generations of sleepwalkers instead of igniting vibrant, loving, creative beings who see life as a possibility to shine. Teens are the perfect group to practice mindfulness. They are ripe for the taking and only need a small, deeply honest effort and they will dive right in. Because they CRAVE more.
I want to see you developing new ideas, acting like entrepreneurs, creating exciting programs, and living life to the fullest instead of spending your days with your eyes glued to your phone screen, waiting for something to happen to you. Get out and see what the world has to offer. You are the future of this great country and the time is now. It’s up to each and every one of us to make the world a better place. The world is waiting for your contribution. Get to it!
Letter writing is remarkably easy with endless positive outcomes. When we write letters we find ourselves in a natural state of silence paired only with our words and thoughts of the recipient. The first gift begins as we hold our person dear and confess true feelings for their presence in our lives. We expand our inner grace as we allow our heart to find its way onto the paper. It is deeply honest, simply quiet, and generous in nature. As we conclude with the valediction, we have become closer to love and a connection to others. The second gift occurs for the unsuspecting recipient as they are completing their normal routine of picking up their mail. Stuffed among bills and other masses of paper is your elegant handwriting, full of love and admiration as an invitation to know you more and better.
The Letter Writing Project is more than a book, it is a movement to recreate a place for letter writing as a tool to better recognize who we are and our contribution to the greater good, to rekindle a lost art. There are all kinds of letters that can and need to be written, letters that can be written to develop one’s clear expression. The aforementioned letter of gratitude belongs in the mindfulness kit as it brings additional peace and attention to our feelings. We write letters to the editors of our newspapers. We write letters to our local politicians. We write letters to potential employers. We write letters of reference for job. We write solicitation letters. We write fundraising letters. We write letters of dissatisfaction for a service unreceived. Letters exist in every part of the American culture, yet handwritten letters of admiration, gratitude, and love have fallen by the wayside.
While the act of letter writing is perfect for cleansing angry feelings, sending unkind letters that spread negativity can have harmful effects upon us all.
Write the angry letter, yes; mail the angry letter, no.
It is here where I mended much of my broken heart, privately.
And remember, much like a journal entry, a letter to oneself is a mindful tool of self-care. Dear Self,…
Using letter writing in your practice of being mindful helps you to give explicit attention to your thoughts, actions, and movements. You see more of what is around you by expressing yourself in the quiet moment with paper and pen. With this practice you begin to recognize gifts that have been simply waiting for your acknowledgement and acceptance. As you build your mindfulness practice over time noticing how your thoughts and behavior impact your awareness, the goodness in the world will appear more readily. It is here and there, patiently and longingly waiting for you to awaken so that you may be showered with love and all that comes with it. And then, suddenly, the conscious momentum for walking lightly and lovingly becomes second nature. We emerge remembering who we are and what our connection is to the good of the world. We remember that we are supposed to SHINE!
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