Last year, more than 200 million people worldwide went on a religious pilgrimage.
Traveling to a faraway land to trek up a mountain or bathe in a sacred pool may seem absurd to some, yet it shows the depth of human longing for a rebirth.
Writing can be an inner pilgrimage, a voyage into the interiors of the mind and on a deeper level, the soul. As we write about the changes and events in our lives, we can see patterns and discover ways to encourage healthy growth.
Exercise: Set a timer for fifteen minutes and write about a pilgrimage you’ve taken in your life. Perhaps you left one career for another, began or ended a relationship, or moved to a new part of the city, country or even the world. What did you learn about yourself during that time?
Positive Action Changes Everything.
That’s a bold statement, both in its simplicity and promise.
Journaling is an action, a verb, a live thing that moves and motivates me into a better and healthier frame of mind and body. It’s one thing to say to myself, I’d like to dust that cabinet (finish that report, make that phone call, do a one minute plank).
It’s a completely different experience to just do it.
When I take pen in hand and write, no matter what the topic and no matter how long, I am sending a signal to myself that my ideas, my thoughts and my feelings matter. And how can that be anything but positive?
The plus side is that positive action always follows – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. The action may be as minute as taking a ten minute walk or as far reaching as realizing a long term goal, like writing a book.
Exercise: Try a mini PACE break. Take just five minutes to empty your thoughts onto the page. Congratulations! You’ve performed a positive action.
Writing a haiku
Nudging the right brain awake
Quiets monkey mind
Ok, it’s not Shakespeare.
I took a class recently on haiku writing as a form of meditation. While I don’t drop immediately into a meditative state (yet), I’m figuring out how to write this delicate form of Japanese poetry, expressed in:
I find that being forced into a tight frame with words helps to sharpen focus. This is a good way to be creative and journal at the same time, too.
Exercise: Do you haiku? If you’d like to try, grab a pen and paper and choose one subject or feeling. Then describe it in this format: 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables.
No one needs to write fluently, spell correctly, or even make sense on the page in order to benefit from journaling.
Personally, I write longhand and sometimes my writing is sloppy, all over the place, misspelled and full of my own version of shorthand. The meaning is sometimes not in the words themselves; it’s in the feelings behind the words. At times I don’t have words for what I want to say; a squiggle or a picture will do. And still, I know I am expressing myself in a way that is completely unique.
One reason I think this works is what I call the “after” effect. I may be in a confused or bleary state of mind when I write, and what comes out may appear to be nonsense, boring or insignificant, but later on – that day, that week or even within an hour – I will have an insight. An aha moment. Perhaps an answer to a question I didn’t know I had.
Exercise: When you’re having a sort of blank or off day, try writing anyway. Pick up a pen, a pencil, a marker or a crayon, and begin with “I don’t know where I’m going with this, but . . .” Finish the sentence, then go on to finish the page.
There’s more to paring down a life than getting rid of possessions and balancing the checkbook on a schedule, I’m realizing.
The living simple movement, at its core, is about focusing on the inner life as well as the outer environment. In the book ‘Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World,’ author Brooke McAlary punches holes in the myth that simple living means wearing hemp clothing, growing vegetables and eschewing television. Instead, she suggests ways to find a life of meaning and value in an overstimulated world.
Decluttering a life takes time. And it’s ongoing! It’s so easy to pile up more stuff, add more activities, goals and expectations. Journaling is a good way to keep tabs on how I’m doing to keep my life balanced.
Exercise: Begin a page with the sentence, ‘To me, simple living means . . . ” Compare what you’ve written with the life you’re now living.
Ever been in one of those negative thought spirals that is annoyingly persistent?
Journaling about this the other day, I remembered a favorite affirmation from New Thought teacher Florence Scovel Shinn.
“Thou in me art inspiration, revelation and illumination.”
Hmm. Thought I would try it. I wrote the affirmation, then continued to reflect on it throughout the day. Sort of like chanting. When my thoughts strayed, I returned to the affirmation. Amazingly, this is really working. Already I feel calmer, more centered and definitely more positive and peaceful.
Exercise: When a negative frame of mind is hard to shake, try writing out this affirmation, then continue writing on what it means to you.
A design that crops up again and again for me is the fleur de lis (flower of the lily). In the art journaling world, creating pages around a favorite design is an intriguing way to explore symbols that are meaningful to us.
I finished a stamping project recently that featured a fleur de lis and that prompted me to look up the meaning of the symbol, which is purity, royalty and chastity. The lily shape is also associated with the Virgin.
My guess is that this hearkens back to my Catholic childhood, because the fleur de lis is associated with many Catholic saints. In school, nuns dished out holy cards as rewards for good grades. So completing a project with this design brings me back to that feeling of job well done. It’s funny how symbols define many parts of our personality.
Exercise: In your next journaling time, consider a shape or symbol that you tend to use in your home environment. What is that design’s appeal? Write a page about this, or consider making an art journal page using the symbol.