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Learning: Library Article

Journaling: A Tool for the Spirit
by Susie Michelle Cortright

The fountain of personal wisdom may be as close as your nearest pen.

Thatís because the single most essential instrument for nurturing your spirit is a personal journal.

The word ďjournalĒ may mean 100 different things to 100 different people. For a psychologist, it denotes a tool for a patientís self-analysis. For the writer, it may be a notebook of ideas and ramblings. For most of us, the word denotes a day-to-day diary, a log of action and reaction.

For me, a journal is a notebook of ideas and solutions that I have discovered using my conscious and subconscious mind.

Journaling is a remarkable device for easing worry and obsession, for identifying hopes and fears and for allowing your creative self to expand, increasing your level of energy and confidence. It harnesses the power to tap into successively deeper layers of your subconscious mind while it zaps the nervous, passive energy that ties your stomach in knots and leads to more guilt and worry.

Journals are tools to help you discover the wisdom you already possess. Sometimes, this wisdom will surprise you. Other times, it will challenge you. Always, it will come directly from you, empowering you to trust yourself and to take action by giving you the deep-seated knowledge that you know more than you think you do.

This feeling of power and self-trust will translate into a more confident mother, wife, and spirit. You will already know where to turn when faced with difficult decisions. You will have found the answers within yourself, and you will return there for further instruction.

In addition to revealing your personal insight and wisdom, the journaling process can help dispel feelings of loneliness and confusion by helping you discover a unity within yourself. As your conscious and subconscious mind work together to solve problems in black-and-white, the ideas are validated and more easily applied, even if you never share these ideas with a soul.

Rules of the Game

The act of writing has tremendous potential to tap the subconscious and to arrange conscious thoughts in a clear pattern as words flow from your mind down your arm, into your hand and across the page.

Banish your internal editor. This is that voice that booms from the darkest recesses of your brain: ďYou shouldnít be writing that,Ē or ďSomeone might see that you wrote that."

Here are a few tricks to banish this frightening little voice. Write quickly, allowing the words to freefall from your subconscious. Keep writing, no matter what. Donít erase or cross-out any words. If youíre heading in a direction you would rather avoid, start a new paragraph. These accidental forays may be telltale signs for issues you need to address. And erasing just takes more time that you could be using to focus on you. Date each entry in your journal. Note the time, place, and any details regarding your mood and emotions that will be necessary for context when you read back on your work.

After you have finished a journal entry, take a walk or get up for a glass of water before you reread your entry, and remember to reread this entry with compassion. Then, write an Insight Line--a sentence or two about what you think the piece is trying to tell you.

Sometimes this Insight is as plain as day. Other times, it will take a little reading between the lines. If the subject on which you are writing is a delicate one, there is nothing wrong with putting off re-reading it for a few hours, days, even weeks. Some entries you may not read again at all. The Insight comes from the act of writing itself, the Insight Line simply helps you discover it.

The Techniques

There are as many journaling techniques as there are people who practice the craft. The important thing is simply to explore the underlying layers of your mind--using whatever conduit works for you.

Get creative with the techniques you use. We all have a subconscious mind that communicates to us in a different way. If you are stuck and have nothing to write, try recording snippets of conversations, facts, feelings, fantasies, descriptions, impressions, quotes, images, and ideas. Draw pictures. Make a collage from a magazine. Use the technique that best suits the way in which you express yourself. You know your own mind and how it best communicates with the world. I promise youíll have an even better sense of the way in which your mind works after the completion of a few journal entries.

One method that works well for me, particularly when the ideas donít flow on their own, is called clustering. Put the central idea in the center of the page and circle it. Then, without pause, make associations, placing them in new bubbles and tying them to the main idea. The result is a complex matrix of ideas, many of which you didnít even know you had. If you wish, compose these thoughts later into a cohesive essay that says exactly what you want to say. Or simply move on.

What you need

Paper. The only thing you need is a notebook so your ideas donít get lost. Some journal-writers swear by the loose-leaf notebooks so they can insert pages, but Iím always afraid of losing some of the more personal pages, and I donít want anything to inhibit my ability to write freely and honestly.

Other journal-writers opt for the expensive, hard-bound journals, reasoning that the journal will be a keepsake. These work just fine, as long as you are able to write freely in such a formal book. Some of the things you will be writing will not be pretty. If you are afraid of making mistakes or you feel inhibited with this kind of notebook, youíre better off with a plain old spiral bound from Wal-Mart (my personal favorite.) Some of you will be creating more drawings than essays. If thatís you, consider a wire-bound sketch pad.

Pen. Treat yourself to just the right pen. One that makes you feel important. Test some of the expensive pens. See how they feel in your hand and how the ink rolls across the page. The best choice is one that allows you to write quickly and smoothly. I personally love the easy-flow fountain pens because the color comes out so bold that it makes me feel more confident. And it practically glides itself across the page.

Environment. Your journal should always be there when you need it. Write on the bus, in the office, or late at night when insomnia strikes. If you have the time, a regular writing ritual can be very soothing.

If you do wish to write in the same place and at the same time every day, create the ideal writing space for you. Maybe youíre most comfortable in a rocking chair surrounded by pillows and candles and Schubert tunes. Or maybe you prefer silence and a cherry wood desk or a gentle breeze and a rickety porch swing.

Whether you set a time for writing each day or you do it on the fly, make sure the time you spend writing in your journal is time solely devoted to you and your task. Your journal is designed to nurture you.


Susie Michelle Cortright is the founder and publisher of Momscape, an online magazine devoted to nurturing the nurturers. Visit her at http://www.momscape.com, where you may read more inspiring articles and essays, subscribe to Momscape's free online magazine, mailto:momscape-subscribe@onelist.com, and register to win free pampering packages.

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