Journal Magic -- Words into Wisdom
It's that magical time of year---when school begins. Here is a piece I wrote a few years ago that I'd like to share again. This year I've begun teaching a class at Phoenix College once again---but this time gratefully, it's online. I hope you'll add some of your own memories about school starting. Enjoy.
As I panted across the campus, lugging too many books, I felt the anticipation and excitement of a new class beginning. It is hot here in Phoenix and does not seem at all like the fall beginnings I remember from my years in Pennsylvania. In spite of the heat I could feel that cellular knowing of going off to school for a new semester.
Odd, I thought, as I looked around at students and they looked back. I felt as though I was every age or any age, and maybe that’s how all of us perennial students feel. Were it not for glimpses of myself reflected in classroom windows, I would not have known that I was THIS age, so far from those early beginnings. The joyfulness of being in school had grabbed me once again.
Most of my early conditioning came as a student who did diligence and went to high school, college and later graduate school. This year I’m the teacher, and of course, student too, as I learn from each and every encounter with my class. I’ve taught enough now that I can jump into the joy and keep the beast of anxiety further away from my first class. Best of all, this class is a two credit Journaling class offered in the well known Creative Writing Program at Phoenix College. Could it get any better?
Yes. That’s the short answer. It DID get better. As each student entered the room I greeted them and welcomed them to our shared journey. The vibes felt good as each talked about their hopes for the semester long class. What a joyful and abundant experience it was to feel the open eyed resolution of these fine students. No slackers here. No one just looking for easy credits. This is a group of people who want to grow, learn and deepen their understanding of themselves. What a pleasure.
My hopes for this class are similar to my personal goals for myself---to reap more wisdom and operate always from love. As we do that together we cannot help but touch higher realms and bring in more light to our lives.
Ahh, getting kind of romantic about this school stuff! Where are each of YOU with school, growth and greater learning? A good journaling topic for sure! What is your history with school? Is there ONE beginning that you remember more than others? (I remember every fall at Bucknell, and the joy I felt each time I drove onto campus.) Look at your learning goals…. What are they? Is there something you are putting off that you really need to begin?
School days are times we can all relate to---some times better than others. It could be that a painful memory needs to be released. Write about it and then burn the paper as a symbolic release. That will leave more room for new success’, new discoveries, new school days.
One caution, when you are ready to head back to school, watch out how many books you pack and how far you park from the classroom. YOU may not be as young as you think, either. --Sue
I believe that each of us carries a kind of 'magic' within. It's always been important to me to find my own magic---what I think of as my authentic nature---in order to be as good a version of myself as I can be. Writing in a journal, a safe space for me, has helped me get past the "monkey-mind" that chatters away inside me---and that seems to feed my self-doubt and fear. It's been such a relief to find this writing refuge---and so I encourage others to find it for themselves, too.
What I've discovered over the years of doing this writing is that as I deepen into my authentic nature in my journal I AM able to enter into the flow of my creative self. I have found the magic of self-support and inner wisdom. I call it magic because it just seems to slip itself in between the ramblings of an ordinary day. There will be a phrase or a feeling or a concept that surprises and delights me when it shows up on the page. Julia Cameron talks about it appearing within "Morning Pages" as is why, I believe, she insists that people write for three pages. As we do that our critic takes a break--and our wisdom has a chance to emerge.
Do you find 'magic' in your writing? What do you call it? How does it leave you feeling? Is it a little like a spiritual experience? Want to write about it---and share it here? Would love to hear your thoughts about this.
JournalMagic. It still works for me. In fact, I think it gets stronger each day. :-)
I've been away---my most recent "excuse" for not posting. It was a wonderful trip to a most majestic place -- Alaska. We visited my daughter and her family who live there because her husband is career military.
Jenna treated Mike and me to a trip to Seward on the Great Alaskan Railroad. I have not yet learned how to post pictures here but when I do I'll add some of the majestic sites we saw. The mountains still have snow on them, and glaciers were tucked in between some of them, their light blue hue showing up even at a distance.
The train rumbled on at a wonderful pace, fast enough to get us there---and slow enough to take pictures and enjoy the truly awesome environment. We saw a bear, a moose, and a couple eagles along with the incredible vistas.
This was the best way to see Alaska that I can imagine--and Mike treated us to a domed car on the return trip, which turned magnificence into total glory. There are really only partially fitting words to describe the vistas we saw, and I'll add my recommendation that you go there---and experience it for yourself.
So, as a journaling question, what have you experienced that makes you want to use the word "majestic"? We have it all around us...if we just stop to reflect and explore. Good luck on your inner journey.
I wonder, what are the tools you all use to help you concentrate and focus on the projects you have before you? I know there are some that people have suggested to me, like scheduling a certain amount of time for each project on a particular day. For some reason that does not seem to be working well for me.
The project I want to work on is a big one---and still in a form that is not quite crystal clear. Perhaps that contributes to my setting it aside, while I 'finish' up the smaller, but never-ending projects that surround me.
I will go to my journal soon, and spend some time making sense of this. I will look to make peace with the part of me that procrastinates and the part that is anxious to move forward. Somehow, making it public here helps me feel more certain that I WILL move forward. My focus has improved already.
So, I hope you'll just take a look at your own life and see if you are putting off any projects. If you aren't---respond and tell me how you keep on top of things, and what I might do to sort out my tasks and stay focussed. Let's work together on this--and encourage one another to pay attention to those things we most desire.
I've had the wonderful good fortune to come to Flagstaff, to our cute little A-frame cabin, for the week. It's not totally a hang out and rest kind of week because I am here with my two grandsons, Jimmy and Joey. They are great kids, but used to having things "happening" so we were very busy in the first few days, walking in the woods, trips to the store, and lots of games--I like Uno and am sick of Sorry.
Today, I'm taking a deep breath, both literally and figuratively. We again took a great long walk in the woods, but now the boys are feeling more comfortable here and are adjusted to the altitude. Even Joey, who is just 4 and a half was able to keep up on a two mile walk. They climbed through barbed wire fences and up and down ravines (while I followed along on the road). They are hardy adventurers.
We returned to go out to lunch and then made it back to the cabin just before a downpour. Rain. A beautiful site to those of us who live in AZ. And Jimmy and Joey are no different as they ran and played in the pouring rain for at least an hour. What fun.
So, as we've all settled into a routine of sorts I have some time to visit my computer, pick up my knitting, and generally take a long, deep breath. I'm tired but so very warm and happy that these sweet boys will have this memory of "Camp PapaNonnaZona" to carry with them the rest of their lives. And, I do, too.
There are so many ways to be distracted these days. Not only do we have our normal tasks such as taking care of laundry, buying and fixing food, cleaning our homes, and WORK, but we have the Internet, cell phones, text messaging, and of course some of us have smart phones which combine them all. There are advantages to having these technological wonders since I wouldn't be writing this blog right now without them...but there are times when they are just too 'available'.
I love the work I do because I have so much flexibility and variety. It's meaningful, whether facilitating a group for cancer patients, or facilitating a group of journal writers. Both excite me because I have the opportunity to help people discover the wealth of wisdom they carry within themselves.
The downside of what I do is that I do need to be organized to fulfill all my various responsibilities with care. It's easy to "dream" about writing my book, and another to get down to business on it. Preparing for a journal class is fun, but I have to be careful to segment my time so I am sure to have it completed. My Blackberry (I had to pull it out and look at it just as I wrote that) distracts me when I am fighting creating focus.
So, I realize that there is part of me that wants to settle down and deepen, and another part that wants to be breezy and light and stay distracted. The battle is waged daily. Somehow taking the time to describe it--as I am now--I think is going to help me.
Once settled I'm happy to move into deeper thoughts and awareness's. Writing in particular becomes calming, soothing, and sometimes exciting.
Wondering about others...and whether you have this battle with your deeper, creative self vs. your task oriented surface self? What do you do to manage the two? Let's work together to create better focus, and enjoy the "magic" we carry inside.
As I wrote this piece about "A Safe Place" I realized I went into a kind of "mini-lecture" mode. It's because safety is a huge issue for me, and I think lies at the heart of what makes journal writing so valuable. I'd love to hear your comments about the importance of safety in your writing, too! Read on....
One of the reasons that I like keeping a journal is that it provides a safe place where I can 'talk' to myself about how I feel about whatever happens to be going on in my life. There, in my journal, I don't worry about who might approve or disapprove, or if I'm repeating myself, or if I'm being negative. I'm writing just for myself and at times to release--and that feels good.
What often happens is that after achieving a release of feelings that may have been "in the way" I can then open to more creative ideas, positive "juice", and general joy about where I am in my life. Often as I continue I may also have an "aha" or insight that opens me up even further.
I believe this is the path that we can take in our journals---moving toward more authenticity, more awareness of who we are at our very core. As we do, it's my belief that we are then better able to live out "what we took birth for", or in orther words to live out our life's purpose. We are each so different, and each are blessed with an individual path for our lives.
Of course lots of people repond that someone has read their journal at some point in their lives. This is a wound that is not always easy to overcome. I recommend at first if someone has had that experience, that you write and then tear up what you've written. You did what you needed to do---got the release you needed, so the major work is done. Many journal writers do not even go back to read what they've written, it's the exercise of release that serves them best.
Whether wounded by someone reading your journal or not, it's good to regard your journal as a sacred book. It does represent your deepest thoughts and feelings, and so needs honoring as such. Keep it in a safe place, so it can be just that for you---a safe place to deposit all aspects of your life.
A journal is powerful because YOU are powerful. Own your power and write it out. Sometimes the power will show and other times it will be more subtle, but the healing power of your writing will always be present.
My wonderful intentions of writing several times a week have been lost in the midst of extra work at The Wellness Community and trips to Santa Fe and Flagstaff. I'm getting revved up again---and will start with an article I wrote several years ago. Much of it still fits---and in terms of writing, fits very well. Here goes:
Often when I prepare a Journal Companion I have an idea that has been stirring within for some time. Today I thought I would just “begin”. I have a lot of feelings that have been circulating through me, but many are just there—and have not surfaced sufficiently to have words put to them. Do you know what I mean? It has taken me many years to learn to sit with feelings long enough to be able to match them up with words that fit. Writing appeals to me because it allows me to do that---actually it requires me to do that. When I am successful I feel more opened up and … clearer. It helps me to find more peace within.
The psychologist James Pennebaker, who has done lots of research on the value of writing as expression, explains that when something difficult or unpleasant happens it is stored in the right brain. The left-brain is where our verbal skills lie, however, so the left-brain is necessary to put words to the experience in order for them to be released. This is particularly true of traumatic events, and is why writing about personal traumas can be so healing.
I don’t know that I would say I have been traumatized recently, but certainly there are a lot of changes going on around me. More personnel shifts have occurred at my work site, leading to new orientations, new priorities. My son is changing jobs after being in one career for eight years. The weather, the drought, the world situation—all can create fear and anxiety at times.
I come back to the need to get centered to sort out how I feel, what I need, how I can take action to improve my situation, my quality of life.
JUST writing---writing anything---helps me to feel clearer----it’s happening now. I have more of a sense, in the midst of all this change, of what I can control and what I cannot control. And…I DO feel more peaceful.
My personal belief is that we all need to do everything we can to contribute to a sense of peace, since there is such enormous distress in the world today. I hope you will try just sitting down and beginning to write today. You can start with a question about your feelings, your life concerns, your goals---or about feeling blah … or maybe about feeling great!
As we write it’s important to just let it happen. Don’t worry about how it sounds or how clever you are. Be real. Practice authenticity. Take off your mask (s) that you wear to protect yourself, and say it all—in your safe little journal.
When you are done with your piece of writing—even if only for five minutes, notice how you feel. See if you don’t feel “cleaner” and “crisper” and more at peace with who you really are. Peace to you! --- Sue
We have a new dog in our household--and she's been with us for three months now. She's a puppy--Haley the Comet Girl--is her name. Haley was a rescue after having survived Parvo---that dreaded illness that attacks puppies. Most of her litter was wiped out, but she has survived and is still growing.
Having watched "The Dog Whisperer" for some time we felt we were ready for this new charge in our busy lives. We thought we had it all figured out---but, as with any "kids" we have learned even more in our short time together.
We thought we'd be so smart to get a crate and keep here there at night. That was fine---though we did have to get up in the middle of the night for potty time (rather my husband did) but we knew that was short term. When company came to stay at the house we got the little one in our room for the night so as not to bother the visitors. We LOVED having her in bed with us...and what is more she didn't have to get up nearly so often to go potty when she was with us---and no accidents either.
So we let her out of the crate at night. Now, when we DO need to go out and need to put her in the crate, she has an aversion to it. On top of that she pees in it. Clearly it is anxiety at being left alone. I've tried homeopathic remedies to no avail. What next?
My vet, a wise woman with many years experience, suggests we "start over" getting her used to the crate once again and learning that it is safe and that we don't always leave when she goes there. So that's where we are today---helping her to know she is safe and loved, and that we'll return to her as soon as we can.
Safety, as some of you know, if a very important issue for me, too. So perhaps Haley is just showing me what I know to be true for myself, too. I, too, need to feel safe or I shut down and lose my creative edge. When I'm afraid I contract and "lose my place" and have trouble feeling grounded and at peace.
In a recent workshop particpants said that for them to feel safe and comfortable was the same as feeling peaceful. Peaceful. Isn't that what we are all trying to find more of the time?
Consider writing about your peace. Where do you find it? Do you want more? And, if you do not feel safe you probably don't piddle...but may demonstrate some other behavior that doesn't serve you.
Be gentle. That's Haley's message to me about her---and for me to me. It's the same message I share now with all of you. And...peace.
I don't like blogs. There...I've said it. I have started and abandoned several different blogs over the last three or four years. Each one had to do with my deep commitment and honest passion for journal writing as a tool for personal growth and day to day balance. Still, I wrote in them (or on them?) only a few times before conveniently forgetting my password. I just couldn't see why anyone would want to read what I've written. I certainly wasn't interested in other people's blogs.
The benefits of the blog format have just not connected for me...until today. Today, as I read "Writer's Digest" and felt small---like a teeny minnow in the enormous ocean of writers--- I realized that I want to return to writing frequently--whether there is anyone there to read it or not. I DO want to develop my skills as a writer, and a blog is public enough to help me work at it. My journal remains my very safe place, and you will not see embarrassing revelations here.
So, now that I am consciously working on this little blog I will look around at others. It's time to open another door in my learning life and step in.
I'm open for comments, so please, if you have thoughts to share about any of this, let me know. In the meantime, don't forget to write in your journal. Your magic will show itself to you---and we sure do need more magic in this world. I hope 'clicks' happen for you, too.
When I was a college student---oh so long ago---I wrote lots of papers in my Philosophy of Religion classes. I recall that on more than one occasion I came to the conclusion that much of what I experienced on a spiritual level went beyond words.
We all know those times in our lives when what we are going through could not adequately be communicated...because it was in a different "space" than mere words could convey. I'm thinking about experiences that are universal, yet in the moment difficult to put into words---a loss is one such experience, while at the other end is ecstatic joy. As I get older I'm more likely to be patient with "no words" and simply sit with the feelings.
This weekend I will offer a workshop with my friend and colleague Pinna Joseph, who does "Yoga of the Voice". Together, we'll use some words and some sound, to help each person stretch into new experiences. Some of it will be beyond words---and we'll be able to simply make sounds. At other times we'll write, listening for the "inner magic" that happens when we slow down to really listen to ourselves and to the Universe.
Those who are unable to come to our workshop might just try some personal experiments...making sounds as if a chant before you write in your journal. When you hit a spot where words are not coming...take some time to make sounds, express your emotion, and see what else appears. Let us know what you discover!
May your day be full---wordless and wonderful at times.
Just because this website is about journal writing does not mean that we find wisdom ONLY in writing. It is one path. It's a valuable path, I think, because like meditation, it slows us down and helps us to more consciously take in the world around us. In truth it operates as a kind of "hub" for focus, remembering, honoring, savoring, important aspects of our lives.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with Cathy Reams who is a dog behaviorist. She came to give us guidance about our new puppy, Haley (Comet girl!) about how to manage her behavior in a way that will make her a better pet.
Somehow Haley knew that we were talking about her, and her shift in behaviors---less jumping and nipping, have already begun to occur. In her case, LESS words are better, as are simple consistent behaviors. I found that so interesting, since dogs are watching us much more than they are understanding our words.
I think my writing helps me to be a calmer person, which our trainer said impacts the dog in a positive way. Similarly, my focus on less words and more action with Haley is having a positive impact on ME. It's helping me stay more present and trying less to multitask.
Wisdom shows up in all kinds of ways. I hope to hear from some of you about "hits" of wisdom you have had recently.
Words into Wisdom is what happens to anyone who takes the time to journal. Your words, out on the page, make 'space' inside for new thoughts, feelings, and ...wisdom to bubble up. Don't take my word for it---just give it a try.
I welcome you to this new blog, made possible through my website manager, Homestead. I'm delighted to have this available on my site and think it will keep me more honest with my own level of journaling, and create an opportunity for all of us to share here.
Please make comments, ask questions, or share something wonderful that has emerged for you in your journaling magic.