“In an age like ours, which is not given to letter-writing, we forget what an important part it used to play in people’s lives.” ~ Anatole Broyard

Short walk in history:

At the corner of my 20’s, in the late 1990s, I remember discovering an old, used-up box in my grandma’s apartment. I pulled it out and blew the thin layer of dust away. I was imaginatively curious of its content. Prior to lifting its top, my grandmother walked in the room. Her eyes gazed at me, moved aside and then she said: “I see, you were finally able to reach the shelf.” Evidently this wasn’t my first attempt.

We sat together, she put her glasses on, and then for hours we looked at the old letters, notes and photographs she had collected over time. My favorite part was observing her emotions as she gave me a glimpse of history. I cherished that moment with my grandmother, who until today, keeps that box in the exact same spot where I found it years ago.

Years later, I found a profound connection between letter-writing, yoga and other related philosophies as a form of mindful transformation and inner connectedness.

Yoga & words:

In the book “Tao Te Ching,” by Lao Tzu – the father of philosophical Taoism, Tzu says in a verse:

If you understand others, you are astute. If you understand yourself, you are insightful.Lao Tzu

As stated in the commentary of the text, this verse implies a comparative hierarchy of fulfillment and it highlights what lies in the heart of Taoism, which is to start within yourself. Meaning, to live an enlightened and meaningful life, one must first look within. A variety of yoga practices, such as meditation, can serve as a ladder to reaching our consciousness and finding how we feel or who we are. But also the act of letter writing.

See, that “ancient” form of communication, just like yoga, holds an invaluable gift – it allows us to stay present in the moment; we look within and are able to express our thoughts and feelings in a vulnerable and egoless way. Thus, taking and applying our knowledge and practice of yoga to the simple, but creative process of letter writing can lead us to a transformation and to the expansion of our consciousness.

The process of letter writing and practicing yoga holds special and common characteristics. For example, in both cases during this process of personal transformation, you are alone. You are performing a meaningful activity, an enriching experience and you are expressing yourself through words or movements. You let go, and this subjective experience provides you with a room for psychological growth. You have the opportunity to heal your mental, physical or emotional state of mind. It’s you, and nobody else.

The impact of letter writing?

Gautama Buddha, a sage believed to have lived and taught mostly in eastern India sometime between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE, once said:

Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to others.Gautama Buddha

Being conscious and utilizing your knowledge to live life to the fullest is invaluable, but your transformation is as important as the transformation of those around you, so your words should be honest, but carefully chosen.

Who needs a letter?

Indeed…everyone, I believe. Recently, I came across Simon Garfield’s book, “To the Letter,” where he discusses and traces the fascinating history of letters.

There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters…I could be their leader.Charlie Brown

In response to this question, Garfield states: “the appeal of a Valentine’s card is that it says nothing and everything all at once. One doesn’t have to be very skilled at expressing love or longing to send one, for someone has done that for you with a poem or [an] illustration of a rose, and the real work is done by the recipient. And the recipient is never obliged to reply to one, merely to cherish it and wonder. They are not real love letters, and these days they are unlikely even to be a prelude to them; they are date-appropriate arousals. Really not much than a Facebook poke, and they may even teeter on the brink of timidity and alarm. Real love letters are something else, and soon we will all be like Charlie Brown, reaching for what isn’t there.”

We live in times of technological improvements and innovations, but still, it is the “old” acts of letter writing and the ancient practice of yoga that hold and provide us with something indescribably valuable. So, why not digital letters? The experience is different. In a word document you won’t see the mark of a tear or a kiss. You stack your photographs in folders and rarely go back to see them.

Garfield believes that in life, ”

few things are as exciting—and potentially life changing—as discovering an old letter.Garfield

Saving our planet should be our priority; so digital is the way to go. The encouragement here is to write letters once in a while – for special occasions…for special people in your life. By looking within and connecting with your inner-self, you can heal and transform others too. Ultimately, it is up to you if you want your grandchildren to find a box full of memories or a digital device – just make sure it isn’t password protected.

[Photo by dreams & pancakes – CC BY]


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