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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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Love Your Belly

Love Your Belly

Few of us feel love for our bellies. We squeeze them into Spanx pants or belt them up Clarkson-style; our bellies are viewed as wayward creatures that will embarrass us given half a chance. As Susie Orbach says in her book Bodies: “Bodies are becoming our personal mission to tame, extend and perfect.” The reality of our soft, fallible selves is regarded as out of control and unacceptable. However, tension in the belly is translated into tight tissues, which can inhibit the function of our digestion, our backs and our hormonal flow. Ninety percent of serotonin is...
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Coping with Painful Anniversaries

Coping with Painful Anniversaries

Anniversaries are generally considered to be celebrations, marking events, people, places and times that we have loved and enjoyed. They bring us into contact with memories we wish to retain and relive such as birthdays, graduations and weddings to name but a few. Anniversaries have a place the world over, in culture, religion, history and society. But what happens when anniversaries become difficult? In my work as a psychotherapist I have come to believe that the reason some anniversaries are difficult is two-fold. Firstly these anniversaries act as a type of...
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Yoga: Meditation for the Restless

Yoga: Meditation for the Restless

It was day two of the yoga retreat. We’d just sat for our second evening meditation, in the profound silence of a candlelit limestone cave, and we were sharing some thoughts about our experiences. Suddenly one of my fellow students, in some distress, burst out, “It’s no use! I’m trying and trying and I can’t do it.  I just can’t empty my mind!” Of all the misconceptions about meditation, this is one of the most common – and probably the most unhelpful. Of course the poor woman couldn’t empty her mind – it’s a contradiction in terms. ‘Mind’ is the word we use for...
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How to Choose a Therapist

How to Choose a Therapist

I have to admit that simply following your intuition and inclination is not such a bad way to go. This is particularly true if you know a fair bit about therapy, such as the various different approaches. It is even more of an option if you have a clear sense of what you want to achieve in therapy. But what if you want to approach this question more systematically? Let’s work through a few variables that, from my experience, people contemplating therapy are concerned about. Age I have never heard of anyone saying ‘I really want a very young therapist’. This is...
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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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Want to Know Yourself? Take Our Test

Want to Know Yourself? Take Our Test

“If I knew myself, I’d run away,” said Goethe, who, incidentally, was Freud’s favourite writer. You might imagine that knowing yourself would be one of the key goals of psychology.  Often it has not been, however. When I was young one of the most distinguished experimental psychologists of his generation Donald Broadbent told me students should realise it was an illusion that psychology would teach them to know themselves better. Perhaps that’s why a paper on Experiential Self Monitoring which I reported in 1980 made such an impression on me. It was given by E J...
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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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