Journal Magic -- Words into Wisdom
We all go through times in our lives when things are difficult and even times when we aren't sure we can carry on. And yet, most of us do carry on. How we do that varies from person to person, and from challenge to challenge. One way that helps me is writing in my journal.
I still find that even for me, a devoted and convinced journal writer, there are times when I resist this healing habit. I may be busy seeking comfort from people or activities, and may really not want to venture in to the deeper places inside of me where the real pain resides. Eventually I do get here, back to the page, and back to taking some time to be with myself in a quiet and meaningful way.
When I return I find relief. There is something that happens in the silence, the space between the words, where I am reassured, gently opened, and once again feel the magic, as I like to call it, that comes. It's a quiet place where "all is well" resides.
Sitting here now I feel nurtured and nourished by the silence and the gentle tapping of the keys. I know I can erase or delete...but do not feel the need. I know we all have drama in our lives that pulls us from center. And perhaps a big part of what we are here to learn is how to regain our balance. There are a thousand roads to get to that place of balance, and all we have to do is to stay on the road and not give up. Then we can find our way. Writing is one way, and getting help from others who can see the bigger picture is another. I'm fortunate to have good advisors to turn to though sometimes it takes me a while to get there.
When you are ready to find relief sit down with your pen, or at your computer, and begin to write. Just get your pen/fingers moving to see what wants to come out. You might find, as I have, that it can be quite a relief.
On Sunday I turned on my computer and it opened automatically to a news channel. There in front of me was a picture of Gabby Giffords with the announcement that she was going to resign her seat in the House of Representatives. Then I turned on the YouTube video and listened to her talk.... Tears streamed down my face as I listened to her. I think a part of me must have returned to that Saturday last year when the shooting happened. I felt devastated then, and am sure it triggered other tragedies I remembered from my younger life, those other shootings of JFK, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy. Why do such things happen to wonderful people?
Today's newspaper again carried pictures of Gabby as she met with others who had been there that Saturday with her, some of whom had been injured, others who just cared. Again I felt tears spring up as I read the story...of how she met with each person, listening intently, talking as best she could. My heart hurts...that this sharp, energetic, and beautiful woman has been hurt at such deep levels.
As I sat with my feelings and with the story I realized that Gabby has continued to fight and that she does hope to return to her work in the Congress. She is an amazing warrior of light and truth. Rather than continuing to feel sad I began to sit up taller, feel brighter, more hopeful, and realized Gabby would not want any of us to sit in the sadness too long. There is a time for it, and then it is time to get back to work.
I'm taking her lessons with me---and hope to live a little more in the bright light of her inspirational choices. I can quit feeling sad about the little things I encounter in life, and get back into what IS good and what IS possible. I will do the hard things even when it isn't convenient or fun, just because it needs to be done.
Thank you Gabby Giffords for the powerful example you are setting for us all. You are a remarkable person and I know your light will not be dimmed.
Last night our two grandsons and their dad came over for dinner. Joey, the younger one, just turned six, so it was a great time to celebrate. We had chicken legs done with Shake n Bake, and mashed potatoes, with a few green beans just to keep them in line.
After dinner and after Joey opened his presents...which he LOVED, (whew) Jimmy told us that he had some homework to do. Mike and he got to work on math problems, fractions to be exact, and they made great headway. Seems that Jimmy's teacher gives them assignments but doesn't do a very good job at explaining just how they are to do the work.
As Jimmy finished up the last problem he looked up with delight and said "Done!". I asked him if he felt like he understood better than before, and he said "Yes, really. I do!" Those are a lot of enthusiastic words from this charming little boy who keeps much to himself.
I went to bed thinking about the joy of homework---and the opportunity to get just a little closer to this sweet young man. That's OUR homework. And I had a big smile on my face, too.
In the past it was not unusual for me to feel worn out and NOT ready for the New Year after all the holiday hullabaloo. This year feels different to me. I feel calmer, more peaceful, able to push away feelings of anxiety, and be happy. How amazing is that? You may be thinking, so how have you done that? Right?
Well, I think I had fewer expectations this year. Christmas for the family went pretty well---though there was a hang-up with the boys trampoline, and Jenna lost the lacey scarf I made for her that included a gift card. Sigh. Other than those little things it all went smoothly and we had great gratitude for our good fortune.
Perhaps there was another event that added to my gratitude--and has stayed with me. That was our trip to California. Mike and I stayed near the beach just north of L.A. and enjoyed driving around to visit places like Santa Barbara, the Reagan Library, Ventura pier, and we did some wine tasting, too. On our last day of this trip we got a call from one of our pet-sitters....
"Hello? What's up? Everything okay?", I said.
"Well....no. I don't know how to tell you this, but Halley (our 2 year old dog) was hit by a car. She got up afterward...and then took off, and now we don't know where she is."
Needless to say that was a traumatic call. We began to pack up and ready ourselves for the long drive home. Before long we got another call,
"We found her! She ran about a half a mile, crossed Camelback twice, and came back to your patio. We think she is mostly okay except frightened. We are taking her to the vet."
Greatly relieved we cried and cried, and felt the joy of our little puppy being spared. When we got home she greeted us with wiggles and licks...and then I sat with her, held her and just sobbed. She was okay. I offered more prayers of gratitude for her safety.
So after all that, Christmas didn't seem so important to me. That may sound silly, since people deal with so many awful things in life. To be so influenced by the wellbeing of my little dog may seem like a small thing, but somehow to me it represented an awareness of living in the now and appreciating what we have now.
So far this year on a daily basis I've taken time for my journal, for some meditation, and for the awareness that I can let go of old negativities and resentments and just return to now. I hope to continue along this path. I know I'll have days that I miss something but I'll keep returning to my beliefs about peace, gratitude and NOW.
Do you want to create some new patterns in your life? We do have the power to do it, so think about what you want to change. We'll do it together, one day at a time.
I was just reading through some of the articles about journaling that I'd written in years past. They were part of my email newsletter that I sent about twice a month. I enjoyed those missives and can see how my writing improved when I wrote them regularly.
For some reason it's been more difficult for me to take the time to come here and add another piece to my blog, and right now I am longing for that writing fluidity that I had sometime back. Things have changed in my life so that Journal Magic does not get all the attention it used to. My work at The Wellness Community Arizona takes a great deal of time, as do the groups I do for Cancer Support Community, online. This has been my "reason" for a long time now. But...only I can decide if I want to make a change.
Of course I know that there is a question inside me that says, "Do I really have anything valuable to say?" That is a clear signal that I've forgotten about the "magic" that I know appears when I write with regularity. The flow, that now feels so cut off, opens up, and everything around me becomes more alive. Words become a way to express the excitement, the joy and the light that surrounds me---even when something I am writing about is unpleasant. Paradoxical, huh?
I hope today's piece is just the beginning of more. I'm not going to make any more promises...but rather see if I will "show up" to do the work. I'm open to the "magic" once again. I hope anyone who is reading this will join me in rediscovering magic as well.
I was reading one of the emails that comes to me daily. It's called the DailyOm and often has little pieces of wisdom that catch my attention. I like it so much that it is on the front page of this website. Today's piece was about putting others on a pedestal--thereby giving up our power to someone we think is "better".
That struck a chord for me, since it's easy for me to see others as being more "advanced" or "together" that I see myself. And, as this article points out, everyone has flaws and imperfections, even if we can't see them. Giving away our power to others does nothing but diminish our own, and keeps us from becoming all that we are.
Now I'm not talking about not being respectful of others. I honor and respect many people---but don't need to put them on a pedestal. And I do that still, at times. I had a chance to talk with Steven Lapore this week. He is a researcher who has done a lot of work with expressive writing--and even edited "The Writing Cure". I was a bit in awe of him, and told him of my work with journaling. He was so very kind and supportive. It was quite lovely--and gave me a boost that I didn't expect. HE was honoring of my work, too.
I tend to put myself down when talking about my own accomplishments, and he didn't let me do that. So I will learn from him and from the DailyOm today. I hope you, too, will be more honoring of who YOU are and what YOU have accomplished. We can work together on that. :-)
Over the last couple of weeks there have been a number of times that I thought, "Oh, that's interesting! I should create a blog article about that." And then I return home and get caught up in the next project or obligation on my calendar. The writing is put off, again.
Today I read an article by Sheila Bender (www.writeitreal.com), and another member of the Council for www.IAJW.org. Her article was about writing as exercise, and so today, now that I've been to the gym for some physical exercise, I decided it was time to sit down and engage in some writing exercise. Practice makes a difference. I know that so well, and yet have had a hard time committing to the time to make it happen.
After I've avoided a particular activity for a period of time--as in not allowing myself the time to write down my thoughts, I begin to talk to myself as though I cannot do it anyway. I get hooked into comparing myself to others and think "Oh, I can't really do that very well anyway. I've been kidding myself."
Of course that kind of self-talk is not going to help me sit down. Rather what it does is feed my very critical inner critic. I'm left with fears that I have nothing to say---and skills that are sadly lacking. It gets more and more difficult to sit down and just write.
The only way I can get past this blockage is to find time to write about the little things that catch my eye during the day. As I do that I can practice as well as have some fun recalling an awareness or "aha" that shows up. Or, of course, I can write about my reluctance to write...as I am today.
There is something 'warming' about writing one's thoughts and feelings. I can feel it now, a sense of being more present, more alive, and more open to the flow of my creative energy. And so I will practice with more regularity, letting go of the "shoulds" of my day, and opening into what brings me joy and satisfaction.
I'm sharing this here on the blog because I think others might relate. There are lots of things that we might like to do---but we let our obligations clutter our lives to such an extent that we don't get it done. I hope this will encourage you to pick something you have wanted to do...and just begin to practice.
In the past I've written articles about returning to school that included lugging a huge bag of books with me across campus. This year, it's different. We meet online.
I like working online, and am a facilitator for an online support group that meets in a chatroom. I've seen magic happen there--and being able to connect in real time does make a difference. I've taught some online classes before---and honestly had some of the best students one could imagine. They sent their assignments in on time, had quality comments to make on the discussion board, and stayed interested all the way through the semester.
This semester my class is a little different. We are doing almost all journal writing, which of course, I like. It's hard to tell at this point how this class will compare to previous classes. There are already a few members who, like in other years, have jumped in with great enthusiasm. And, there are a few I have barely heard from so far, but it's early and they might enter in a little more slowly.
Perhaps this isn't all that different from in person classes...when we have to wait to see who will appear and who will drop. I guess I'm always a little anxious at first, hoping to get everyone off to a good start---and to encourage them to love the material.
If nothing else I can rejoice in the fact that I am NOT lugging books across campus or fighting for a parking spot. I'm here in my home office, feeling the cool breeze from the fan, looking out on the parched yard outside my view. Sigh. This is a good start to the semester and I'm grateful for the opportunity.
Some time ago I was able to attend a workshop given by Julia Cameron, and it was every bit as wonderful as I’d expected. Julia is a profound teacher to many of us, and combines her zany spirit with the humbleness of her 12 Step approach to life, to inform, support, and encourage.
I’ve heard Julia now in person, on tape and through some of her books, and find her words both delightful and inspiring. She talks about writing even when one doesn’t feel like writing—which is where I am today. It’s not that I don’t want to write, it’s that I’m not sure WHAT I want to write ABOUT. She talks about getting something down on paper as “laying track”. It doesn’t have to be good, or well done and is far from a final draft, but it does get one started.
“Laying track” is where I am, knowing I don’t have to see just where this is taking me. It’s one of the reasons I like doing short pieces on the computer where you can cut, paste, or delete whatever you choose.
Of course most journal writing has this “laying track” feel to it, since there are no rules, no shoulds, no direction that you or your journal have to follow. Can you afford to take a few minutes now to be quiet and listen to your inner musings? Can you sit, without direction, without special focus and just let your pen take you where it wants to go?
Freewriting, which is what we are talking about now, according to another Journaling guru, Kathleen Adams, is one of the harder ways to journal---and yet is what most people think of when they think of journaling. Most people who have not done much journal writing think that they have to “think up” things to say, rather than learning to stop, listen, and just let whatever you want float out of your pen, or if using the computer, your fingers.
Freewriting is very much “in the moment” writing and calls upon you to simply transcribe your experience, your awareness or your thoughts. It reflects back to us where we are. I’ve noticed that when I am feeling empty I don’t like having that reflected back to myself, preferring to be full of ideas, creativity and flow. And yet, I’m now understanding that some times we just ARE empty—and it’s okay.
Being empty simply means that we need to fill up. And writing and being allows that to happen. It’s hard, though, if our expectations are high and our willingness to see the yin opposed to our yang, is weak.
I urge you to be gentle with yourselves and to try some freewriting about where you are today, what is going on in your life, mind, body and spirit. When you are through read it over, responding then as though you were your own best friend, offering love, support, encouragement and inspiration. You can be your own mentor, just as Julia Cameron has been for so many of us. --Sue
Journal Writing Therapy
We all carry burdens in our minds: memories of harsh words from parents, or lists of things done or not done, for example. Many of us want to clear our mind of this mental clutter, which impedes our progress at least as much as physical clutter does.
Regular journaling helps clear your mental clutter so you can make a fresh start. You can rant, needle, and transform. You can invent new possibilities for yourself, set goals, and envision new quests. You can get worrisome thoughts out of your head, where they can wreak havoc, and onto paper, where they are only words. No matter what ailments or negative thoughts you’re experiencing, you can begin to heal them through journaling.
After living with Multiple Sclerosis for over eighteen years, I’ve finally begun to cure it myself through the healing power of journal therapy. In 2001, I lost feeling on the right side of my body, making it difficult to walk and impossible to write with my dominant right hand. I needed a way to teach my left hand how to write. What better method could there be than starting a journal?
But the therapy of learning to write with my left hand, structured around journaling, also inspired in me an awesome new world of self-exploration and knowledge. After many years of journaling exploration, I am still amazed at its constantly increasing usefulness in my life. It's a personal coach beyond compare.
Here are two contrasting ways to clear out a mental muddle. The first: Write for ten minutes straight on the topic, “What really drives me crazy is...” Keep your pen on the paper and don't stop for the full ten minutes.
Conversely, you might combine writing and meditation. Write down a question in your journal. Take the question with you into a five-minute meditation. Return to your journal and write. Rinse and repeat.
Whatever your style or speed, it's nice to have a journaling method you can count on to organize your thoughts and sweep out the clutter.
By Mari L. McCarthy - Journal / Writing Therapist. Are you looking for more information on the therapeutic aspects of journaling? Please visit http://www.CreateWriteNow.com. My trademarked program, Journaling for the Health of It! ™, helps my clients live healthier and happier lives.
Ahh...the almost abandoned blog. It's time to reactivate and engage again. Blogging seems to be a personal journey, that is active or not depending on the person doing the writing. I guess that's obvious---and if there were zillions of people reading my blog I would need to be more devoted to regular articles. I'd have pictures, YouTube links...all of it. Sigh. I'm not there yet.
This blog is still more like journaling, which is forever forgiving about how often you write or what you write about. You can even end sentences with a preposition!
What's most important, from my perspective, is that people don't abandon themselves, and so find SOME way to make time for their quiet reflections and insights. Journaling, blogging, meditating...all work. Of course there are other ways to find support for oneself, but it's my belief that the journal provides the vehicle where integration of all those modalities comes together.
I wish you all a joyous New Year. I hope if you are currently journaling you will continue, and that if you've been putting it off that you'll jump into it...just five minutes at a time. It is simple...and profound---just as you are.
This is the time of the year when we see a lot of pictures of particularly meaningful or at least memorable things that have happened during the year. It's useful to have a "year-end" in order to take a hunk of time and review it, though of course we could do it at any time. This is the traditional time, at least for those who don't keep a journal.
For those of us who do keep journals, we have the ability to reflect and review what's been going on in our lives any time. I find it useful periodically to look back at where I was at the beginning of my current book and see if I've made any progress! Sometimes I have---sometimes I see that what I really, really wanted to accomplish, I did! Other times I'll see the same whiny complaints show up one more time. It does give me the option, then, to let it go, ask for help, or make some other kind of change.
I'm not a big believer in resolutions for the New Year, because every day is the beginning of another new year. We can start doing whatever it is that we want to do NOW rather than waiting for some externally chosen day to do so.
I have some things I want to work on---like being more active in this blog for one. I'm beginning today to move in that direction. There are other things I want to work on, too, but they will stay in my PRIVATE journal for just now.
What about you? Are you 'working' in your journal? Does it help you see yourself more clearly? What are your projects for the small letter new year? You can begin whenever you choose.
Happy new year, today and tomorrow, too.
For years I've heard differing opinions from people about the importance--or lack thereof--in writing by hand. Grandmothers shake their fingers at those who've forgotten how to write a thank you note, or a simple letter. We've all gone electronic in so many ways. I, for one, still want to journal with my pen in hand. It seems we have some support for this now.
My husband brought home an article for me to read from The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 5, Personal Journal: How Handwriting Trains the Brain) Now we know, through brain research, that we all benefit by writing by hand. "It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time." So we somehow connect more with what we are writing, and stimulate the brain, by handwriting.
Later in the article it states: "Other research highlights the hand's unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thought and ideas." This is something I have "felt" when I work on a project. It feels to me as though I MUST begin my creative exploration with pen in hand. After I have ideas strung together I can turn to my keyboard, where editing is so much simpler, but initially I feel that in order to "touch" my creative reservoir I must write by hand.
Interesting how neural science is supporting some feelings many of us have had intuitively. Would love to hear what others think about this!
At the core of my passion for journaling is the belief that everyone--each individual person--has within them a kind of creative 'magic'. It's magic because only YOU can create from that place. It is the doorway to our Higher Selves and our connection to God--as each of us defines that force. It's also a door into joy and peace and gratitude for where we are here and now.
I can't tell you how many times I've gotten caught up in this or that irritation, be it from family or work or the crazy politics of today, where I found relief when I sat at my journal. From my artist's pad I feel reflective joy and peace, and acceptance of who I am, warts and all.
I believe that my journal has saved my life---or at least enhanced my quality of life. I am so much more sane and pleasant after a "session" in my journal.
If this is something you've been wanting to do...and just haven't gotten there, I hope you'll use this little blog as a springboard into your own journaling. Just grab a piece of paper and jot down what's going on and how you feel. It will begin to flow if you just let go and realize this doesn't have to be perfect. YOU are perfect, and that is enough.
Join into our little blogging world here by sharing your views. It's safe here, too.
This morning I started a new journal. My last journal took me from late March until now, and as I reviewed it I found lots of emotional expressions within it that displayed the transition that has been going on for me. That's a topic for another time.
My real thrill in starting this new journal was that I also bought myself a set of new colored pens. These are all gel pens with yummy dark colors that span the color wheel. I started with a deep red---almost looked like blood, and ended in a cheery pink. Hmm...don't want to analyze that. Rather, I just want to remember the fun of picking the colors and then feeling the pen as it rolled across the paper.
Someone who doesn't like journaling would simply think I was nuts if they read that writing in colored ink made me feel good---or rather that just feeling the pen on paper made me feel good. But truth is it does. I take a deep breath, feel more grounded more confident, and open myself to see what else might show up there.
Colored pens---and all the new pencils and markers that show up at the beginning of the school year...just make me happy.
Find some colored pens yourself---and enjoy the different moods that are expressed as you write.