Letter Burning Exercise

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Suggested audio: Ashes To Ashes by David Bowie

Have you been wrestling with guilt, anger or any other long standing inner pain that’s been eating you up for months, even years? You feel like a fish floundering on the deck of a trawler, desperate to flop back into your sea of calm. You simply don’t know what to do.

When my beloved maniac of a spaniel, Haggis, was run over I harboured guilt since circa 1995 to about 2010. One day enough was enough so I went to see my GP and explained my feelings. She booked me a one-off appointment with the counsellor and it was her who taught me an invaluable exercise. Sounds stupid but it worked. I was to write about letter to Haggis and basically explain everything, even say I sorry for letting her off her leash too near the road. Then I had the choice of burying the letter or burning it. I cremated it. A beautiful calmness washed over me. I told my dad about it as he was struggling with a situation involving his late aunt so he wrote her a letter and read it at her graveside.

This exercise had been mentioned to me a few times whilst the was enjoying my sessions of CBT & CAT (are you supposed to enjoy that?) and I assumed many people are informed of it. I was advised to absolutely not post it on Facebook, etc, as the internet is not the place for sensitive information and can, in extreme circumstances, lead to prosecution for slander. Writing a letter in explicit personal detail, expressing all those inner thoughts and feelings privately and with dignity then burying it, burning it or deleting it if you used your phone, etc is such a symbolic gesture.

Earlier today whilst sat in the sun bathed garden with my husband, I got my furry shark notebook out and wrote four pages bursting with the contents of my memories and a conclusion. The energy of frantic writing and channelling out inner emotions felt like kickboxing onto paper!

Many of my WordPress writing (older pieces yet to be transferred) contain hints at many incidents with various people over the years and that’s part of what therapeutic writing is about. Who knows what inspired the countless authors and poets that we love and know, they may well have been referring to incidents too. But I’m neither of course, I just sit in the garden and ponder away accompanied by birdsong and coffee.

Mindfulness exercises are a huge part of modern life with books, podcasts and apps to help you on your pathway to peace. If you are a master of extensive psychotherapy you will have identified what works for you and eliminate what doesn’t. I couldn’t tolerate visualisation because I found a problem with each scenario. “Gentle raindrops falling as you lie in a forest glade…” , no! Rain makes my hair go fuzzy! I’m a more physical person and prefer writing, mass murder of creatures on videogames, occasional gentle walks or talking to my olive tree. She really helps!

As I said, I, like everyone, experienced various situations and rapidly wrote about them so much my right hand started to ache as it felt as if I was squeezing the trigger of an AK-47, rapidly firing out words and filling up paper with ballistic injuries. After which I had another coffee then screwed up the paper and burned it with my lighter as I closed my eyes in quiet serenity, aggression turned to ashes.

Try this surprisingly good exercise for yourself. Also known as the Burning Letter Ritual amongst ancient teachings.

© Copyright: Sharon Lawson™


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