Read our posts about soul

My Mad Fat Diary: Journals as Therapy

My Mad Fat Diary: Journals as Therapy

It doesn't matter in which decade you were an adolescent, My Mad Fat Diary will resonate. It's dark, funny, touching and painfully true. I was never fat (though I thought I was, agonising over my weight when it crept over – shock horror! – 9st) and never mad (though it's jarring to re-read my diaries and see the young me passing off casual mention of suicidal thoughts as "nervous tension"), but watching this programme is a sweet agony. It transports me right back to those teenage years of acute self-consciousness and vulnerability when binge-eating followed by...
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Are Role Models Useful to Women?

Are Role Models Useful to Women?

The discrepancy between women’s intelligence and talents on the one hand and their career achievement remains a puzzle for the people who teach them, particularly at university level, as well as for professional mentors who may be bewildered as to why the advance towards equality remains so slow.  Earlier this year the University of Cambridge launched a book about successful women in which the breadth of Cambridge women’s achievements are noted and lauded.  While the aim is to embed and reward different kinds of success, there is a danger that such a project shifts focus...
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Discovering Vedic Meditation

Discovering Vedic Meditation

It's early on a Thursday evening, and I'm standing alongside a man I have just met, Will Williams, in his smart Shad Thames apartment. We are in front of a photograph of Guru Dev, one of the masters of the Vedic tradition, and Will has his eyes closed while singing something in Sanskrit and offering the gifts I was encouraged to bring - three pieces of fruit, a bunch of thornless flowers - to the guru. As he sings, I steel a glance at Will. His eyes are closed, and he looks utterly serene. Will himself does not resemble what we in the west think of as a "guru". He is...
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Musical Meditation: Discovering LifeFlow

Musical Meditation: Discovering LifeFlow

A few months ago now, I came across an audio meditation practice called LifeFlow, the conjoining of the two words presumably designed to illustrate the effortless link that should exist within all of us in the ideal world we all wish to inhabit. "You can allow this scientifically proven audio technology to bring your whole life into perfect harmony and feel peace of mind today!" read the aggressively motivational website blurb, employing, as these things invariably do, a proliferation of exclamation marks in pursuit of blanket persuasion. "YES!" it went on in...
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Culture Tip: Her

Culture Tip: Her

People either love Spike Jonze or hate him. Some focus on such films as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation and praise his quirky, ironic view of the world. Others wonder about the model-chasing photographer character in his former wife Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Based on him, perhaps? So to watch Her, a romantic film Jonze wrote and directed, feels more personal than many filmmakers’ work. It is the story of Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a writer for hire in a slightly futuristic time and place where finely-tuned technology and sun-lit leisure time...
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The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

So there I was, on a miserable February morning, watching the rain dribble down the windows of the Guardian offices at Kings Place, searching for stories for the feature pages, when I came upon a website belonging to an Australian palliative nurse who had written a fascinating survey. Bronnie Ware had asked her dying patients about their greatest regrets in life and had condensed their wisdom down to produce The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. I read it hungrily, for perspective, for comfort, as anyone would. The features editors weren’t interested in it for...
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Why Writers Need Retreats

Why Writers Need Retreats

 Most writers develop the ability to block out noise and a certain amount of chaos. Complete peace and quiet is a rare commodity, so in the interests of getting any work done, this is a skill worth nurturing. What writers don’t always manage is to block out the endless nagging feeling that there is something else they should be doing. And this feeling is invariably made worse when the writer is working from home – as so many writers do. The answer of course, is to leave home for a while and go on a retreat. Preferably a writing retreat. A jobbing journalist, as I was...
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How to Meditate: Discovering Headspace

How to Meditate: Discovering Headspace

In his book Headspace: 10 Minutes Can Make All The Difference, Andy Puddicombe writes: "This is meditation, but not as you know it. There's no chanting, no sitting cross-legged, no need for any particular beliefs… and definitely no gurus." This, then, is  Meditation 2.0,  aiming to free the practice from its hippy associations . Puddicombe is mindfulness's first poster boy, a former monk and  circus trainer, who boasts good bone structure and an Abercrombie & Fitch dress sense. The New York Times has already suggested he is "doing for meditation what Jamie...
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What I Would Tell the Younger Me

What I Would Tell the Younger Me

I can see my younger self through the years: the chubby, shy  teenager, the employee in a new job determinedly trying to work out how to make myself a good journalist but no less important, how to be liked. The young adult wondering if I would meet a man with whom I might make a family, and tremblingly uncertain that any man who I wanted would want me . Then there’s the woman in her 40s with a partner, a home, children, a job she cherished and yet was still beset by uncertainties, the feeling that she had not done well enough , hadn’t achieved as others had or seized...
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What To Do When a Friend Dies

What To Do When a Friend Dies

I have lost a dear, old friend. And as my mother said, “you don’t find new old friends”. What can you do when a friend dies? We were probably never very obvious soulmates – Georgina Henry was intensely political, I spent years working on glossy magazines. But over the last 20 years we became very close, and she was one of the few people I felt safe sharing my secrets and vulnerabilities, disappointments and dreams with. As well as lots of laughs, gossip and shopping expeditions. Two years ago George was diagnosed with cancer of the sinus. Treatment was brutal...
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