Journals and Your Journey

August 21, 2020

What a delight. Very few things are as joyful as flow.

It’s a new first day of sorts. I really started to dislike my last journal, it looked quite mundane and grubby. It’s the worst looking one I have had in years. And some dimension of my life had become stale, nothing too serious but stale nonetheless. Since April 4th, everything had been moving forward at fantastic speed. Then I hit a small internal air bump; it was time to buy a new journal.

An artist can’t work with that old journal and already I feel better. A new day 1. And why can’t we do this? Why cant we plan anew, commence new journeys – or new steps and directions in old journeys, and “explore, dream, discover” as per the front cover of this new journal.

It seemed a little naughty to not complete the old journal. But it’s far from the naughtiest thing I’ve done in my life! And sometimes you have to know when to break the rules, to be a little subversive. I also ensured I had a nice comfortable paper mate pen. Now its flowing.

I have been journaling as long as I can remember. And I generally recommend people I support on their journeys to do the same. There are pragmatic advantages for everyone from business people to artists. For me its another wonderful type of meditation, a communion with a deeper part of me, call it the ‘soul’ if you like.

Thomas Merton, the writer and christian mystic, thought writing was a key part of his spiritual vocation. He said that he would see repeat patterns in his behaviours from which he could learn. I feel that writing helps me find that ‘inner voice’ that Mr. Keating so eloquently tells his school students to find in the Dead Poets’ Society. Its both a spiritual and creative act.

Thomas Merton wrote:

“Many poets are not poets for the same reason that many religious men are not saints: they never succeed in being themselves. They never get around to being the particular poet or the particular monk they are intended by God…they waste their years in vain efforts to be some other poet, some other saint. They wear out their minds and bodies in a hopeless endeavour to have somebody else’s experiences or write somebody else’s poems.”

Thomas Merton

One can use a series a series of questions to kick off one’s meditative journaling, such as:

  1. What am I feeling grateful for today?

2. Where have I been selfish, fearful or egotistical in the last 24 hours?

3. Have I shared the joy of living with others? Have I been compassionate and empathetic with my fellow human beings?

4. What else can I be doing to connect with my life purpose, with what makes me most come alive?

This can be quite therapeutic, and perhaps why the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (which influenced so many other programs) used it so religiously in their early days. It helped them appraise where they were, and to connect to the Divine. It’s strange it got dropped from their program.

But either way, I recommend one ends with stream of consciousness writing. Just keep writing and writing. Usually things get remarkably better and more insightful, even if one starts in a bad mood.

Julia Cameron in the “Artist’s Way” think its a powerful way to unblock and connect to one’s creative self.

“Pages clarify our yearnings. They keep an eye on our goals. They may provoke us, coax us, comfort us, even cajole us, as well as prioritise and synchronise the day at hand. If we are drifting the pages will point that out. They will point the way True North. Each morning as we face the page, we meet ourselves. The pages give us a place to vent and a place to dream.”

Julia Cameron

Like Julia, I always recommend people to write with pen and paper. This way its more tactile, and I have noticed a difference if I type. It can become more intellectual, less me. She also thinks that the morning is the best time to write. I have enjoyed writing at all times of day especially when I can find a beautiful location in nature. But perhaps there are therapeutic benefits to doing it first thing, say after a morning meditation.

I am sitting in the ugly new town of Hemel Hempstead. The ugly high st brands and shopfronts are depressing compared to the cobbled streets, old architecture and church of the old town. But at least now I can meet my artist self with a new beautiful journal and set up. I am happy. I don’t know whether I have always been so sensitive to such things. I don’t think its superficial and its definitely not about money or expense (this journal cost me a discounted £2!). The Greeks emphasised the importance of beauty. And then when I lived in Japan I got used to aesthetics, to the consciousness brought into all their artisanship.

And if I am meeting my true self, my soul, on these pages then surely I should honour such a meeting with simple beauty.

The last few months I underwent another quite deep inner process, and recommenced writing a book I have been working on. I have had fantastic adventures since the end of lockdown but interestingly my writing dried up a little. I was in the company of many others, which was an absolute joy, especially when I could be of service. But I can also get a little caught up in the energies of others.

For now, I am thankful the simple act of buying a new journal and sitting with an open mind is opening the flow once again.