Writing, says Caroline Sherwood, is a journey in itself. For many years a teacher of meditation and spiritual life skills, running workshops across the UK designed to help others restore balance and comfort in their lives. Setting down an account of her own journey towards healing resulted in a book which became more than a memoir. It is an odyssey.
‘When I was younger, I had little confidence, and it was not until my late twenties that the realisation dawned that writing could actually affect others’ ways of thinking.’
Coming from a theatrical household, Caroline was immersed in the power of words from a young age. Her mother was a gifted character actress and her father was involved in more than 100 plays and TV productions.
‘One day my French teacher wrote on the board: AMO AMAS AMAT. As she began to conjugate the Latin verb ‘to love’ – amare (in order to explain the origin of the French aimer), a light of recognition dawned in me.
‘I suddenly realized that language has lineage. This was a very important moment of insight for me and one that sowed the seed for future realizations and projects, not least of which was the writing of my book Naming: Choosing a Meaningful Name, which indexes names under meanings (to make it easy for parents to endow their child with a particular quality).’
This interest in etymology and the wider draw of language has become an important influence, not least upon Caroline’s struggle to reconcile herself with questions of emotional healing and identity.
‘Over the years, writing has facilitated many things in my life. It enables me firstly to identify and then to reconcile inner conflicts; it helps to clarify confusion. For years I kept diaries and journals, burning pile upon pile of them periodically. This was an invaluable way of keeping track of what was occurring within me and of ‘processing’ my experience.’
And for Caroline, that act of writing is as important as her subject. ‘I consider myself more of a scribe than a writer – I don’t sit down faithfully every morning in front of a blank screen and work for several hours flat out. I tend to wait until ideas ‘descend’, and descend they do.’
These diaries went on to become the foundation stones for her new memoir Following a Thread of Gold.
‘Longchenpa, the great 14th century Tibetan lama, is reputed to have said, “He who reads me, knows me.” This has certainly felt true in my life and has been one of the strongest influences on my own writing, particularly as I sat down to consolidate my memories into a single volume.’
Following an inspirational article in The Guardian, Caroline created a special writing room.
‘I followed Julia Cameron’s course, The Artist’s Way. I had never heard of this famous programme until I discovered the book on a friend’s shelf when house-sitting for her one Christmas. The book is subtitled A spiritual path to higher creativity, and the discipline of the Morning Pages is unmatched in its usefulness.
‘Writing my morning pages showed me that I can access ‘new lines’ whenever I need to shift levels; plan creatively; produce solutions on paper; allow healing and inspiration or come to resolution about anything.’
Caroline has been published in many magazines, including The Lady, My Cat, and Somerset Life, for which she has formerly written a monthly dance column.
‘It took two years to research the material I needed for Naming: Choosing a Meaningful. I made many memorable visits to the British Library. I read sections of the earliest published naming book in English – on microfiche, so fragile are its pages – and was allowed entry to the hallowed precinct of the North Library (where only pencils were permitted).’
For Caroline, writing this book cemented her belief that writing – and reading – can affect the way we think.
‘Words and names can tell us much about the origins in consciousness of our world. Our use of words both reflects and affects our reality. By tracing derivations of words, we find the relationship with the world of the person who first coined them – which puts us in touch with the word’s original source and meaning. The same is true of names. A name is a vibrational symbol, an embodiment of the person in language … This is why a healer often only needs to hear the name of someone who is sick to ‘tune into’ them, no matter how great the physical distance which separates them.’
Healing underpins Caroline’s entire motivation for writing through its role in exploring her own journey, as well as facilitating that journey for others.
She has written a short booklet about St Aldhelm’s Well, a healing well in Doulting in Somerset, and later, she travelled to the Isle of Man with a former president of the British Society of Dowsers, researching and annotating the many holy wells on the island. Caroline lived for 12 years in Glastonbury and two chapters of her memoir are devoted to her deep relationship with ‘Avalon’. She was also commissioned to write a chapter in This Enchanting Place: Facets of Chalice Well and to contribute two chapters to Chalice Well: The Story of a Living Sanctuary.
Now her memoir seeks to combine research and personal history in a format which may help others. ‘I do view writing as a healing modality – a way to process experience and gain clarity. And by sharing it in print, readers who are on a similar pathway can find support on their journey too.’
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