Writing has become a ritual for me. I send letters to my close family, friends, and relatives. I write letters that I never send. I write letters when I feel inspired or sad or bored. I write letters when I need to feel connection – to myself or to others. I write letters when I need to remind myself of the beauty in the world, or to articulate the pain I see. I write letters as a means to slow down my thoughts and process the world around me.
Writing letters – pen to paper – is a lost art. In the “olden days” (yes, I’m sure that’s a technical term), letters were the main way to communicate and even a highly studied skill. Now, in the digital age, when we receive a handwritten letter, it is something rare or quickly disregarded.
The beauty of writing letters is that it forces you to slow down, collect your thoughts, and compose them into something guttural, literal, or symbolic. It inspires imagination, reflection, and emotion. There can be healing in the process or it can bring up unresolved wounds. There is power is seeing your scattered thoughts go from ethereal concepts to something concrete and earthly. (If you are a Highly Sensitive Person, these descriptions may be especially true for you.)
I believe that emailing or typing on a keyboard does not have the same effect as pen to paper. However, if writing is painful or not accessible to you, then, by all means, do what work for you. There are ways that using a keyboard or stylus can be soulful, as long as you give it the same attention and thoughtfulness as you might a handwritten letter.
The following are 4 ways to use letter-writing to connect deeply to yourself, your soul, or whatever you consider sacred about your consciousness.
1) Write A Letter To Someone Else – With A Twist
This one is pretty straight forward, however I encourage you to think outside the box. You can write a letter to a loved one who has passed away, or one that is still in your life. You can write to someone who has harmed you or someone who has saved your life. You can write to an ex-lover or a yet-to-be-found soul partner. You can write to a person who inspires you, such as a mentor or activist, whether you know them personally or not. You can write a letter to someone from whom you are seeking forgiveness.
Writing a letter to someone incites a type of connection or intimacy that cannot be duplicated in any other form. Whether you send this letter or not is entirely up to you. In my mind, the act of the writing the letter and sending it are two separate processes. Healing and connection is not solely dependent on the letter being sent.
2) Write A Letter To Your Higher Power
It can be helpful to write a letter to your higher power (be it Higher Self, God, Soul, Source, Spirit, Universe, Creator, etc.) to express your thoughts about your life, your hopes for the future, or current worries. You can express anything – anger, disgust, forgiveness, or gratitude. If you do not have a higher power, don’t believe in one, or aren’t sure what yours is, feel free to write a letter to what you DO believe in – be it Humanity, Science, Love, etc.
3) Write A Letter To Your Body
In this day and age, how often are you in touch with your body? Given the fast-paced and digitalized world we live in, it’s easy to get disconnected. If you are recovering from an eating disorder or struggling with body image concerns, this exercise may be especially difficult or enlightening.
When you write a letter to your body, you are creating separation between your mind and your body that allows you to observe your life and attitudes from different angles. You can create distance between your self and spirit – you can see what is left once you remove what you consider ‘me’. You can separate your body from your personality.
Below is an example of a letter to your body:
I find it incredible that you keep me alive, keep my organs functioning, and keep me breathing without me having to think about it. You ask nothing extraordinary in return for these tasks — beyond your basic needs. You allow me to experience pleasure, enjoy tasty food, hear the nuanced voice of my loved one, smell the earth after a rainstorm…yet, instead of feeling grateful, I have often criticized you at least five times before leaving the house in the morning. This is going to change. This is my letter to thank you…”
4) Write A Letter To Your Past or Future Self
Write a letter to your past self during an especially painful or dark time. Knowing what you know, what would you say to your past self? Or perhaps you want to write a letter to yourself for when you reach a certain goal or milestone? What would you write to your future self after you have met a milestone such as graduating college/having children/retiring? What would you say to yourself on your deathbed?
Writing letters to a past or future self helps us connect with the both fleeting and infinite nature of our soul and time. Imagining ourselves during different times in our lives helps us connect with the continuity of our essence, which extends even beyond our personality. It can offer healing to look at your past in a different light. It can offer hope or gratitude to imagine your future.
Perhaps you’re not there yet?
Here are two ways to still take advantage of the soulfulness of writing, even if you aren’t yet ready (or able) to put pen to paper.
1) Keep The Letters You Receive – And Read Them Repeatedly
If you receive a letter – and it moves you – keep it. Store it in a special place and take it out to reread when the time is needed for you to feel connected to yourself or the sender. Frame a card that was sent to you. Make sure the sender knows you are grateful for their message.
2) Find A Way To Get Pen On Paper, In Whatever Form
Get a newspaper or puzzle book. Do some crosswords or puzzles that require you to put pencil to paper and to think deeply in order to solve them. If you can, do these puzzles in a place that is special to you and allows you the time and attention to give your focus to them or even when you just have five minutes of time. When you are writing your grocery list, take 5 seconds to feel what it’s like to watch your brain and hand work in perfect synchronicity (or not) to form the words.
The great thing about writing letters is there is NO wrong way to do it. Whether you sit down in a bustling coffee shop or a quiet forest, whether your letter is on delicate stationary or post-it notes, when you are putting pen to paper in a thoughtful way, you are starting a process that can do nothing but awaken and stir your soul and interior world…and the world of those you touch with your writing.
When was the last time your wrote, or received, a letter? What is stopping you from writing one today?