Read our posts about soul

Culture Tip: The Book of Mormon

Culture Tip: The Book of Mormon

The next morning my cheeks are aching. A solid two and a half hours of smiling is hard to beat, and that’s exactly what The Book of Mormon induced in me. From the makers of South Park, the musical charts the progress of Elder Cunningham and Elder Price, two Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda on a divine quest to baptise as many people as possible. It simply feels gloriously unacceptable.  This musical is camper than a Carry On film, and so self-aware it almost hurts. It would be easy to piously reject jokes about rape, racism and Aids, but once you embrace the...
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Knitting Therapy

Knitting Therapy

The feel of soft yarn between your fingers, the rhythmic click-click-click of knitting needles, the satisfaction of watching your work growing inch by inch while at the the same time your breathing slows, your body relaxes and the cares of the day slip away with every stitch. No wonder knitting is so popular. People knit for four main reasons - relaxation, stress relief, therapeutic qualities and in order to be productive. The rise of this old-fashioned hobby over the last few years has very little to do with thrift - after all, you can buy a scarf on the high street...
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Self-soothing: Coping with Stress

Self-soothing: Coping with Stress

Sometimes it’s the simple things that can be the most effective. Connecting to our senses promotes wellbeing and relaxation through our sight, sound, smell, and touch. Learning how to manage the everyday and extraordinary stresses of life is a vital skill – one that everyone can develop simply and easily with minimal expense. While there is little that can be done to take away the risk factor, stress - including traumatic events - is increasingly part of everyone’s experiences. While you may not be able to avoid it, you can do something to mitigate the risks and reduce...
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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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