Journaling is Like a Superpower.

Something really special has happened the last few evenings. My kids and I have discovered a new evening ritual. We call it Journal Time.

Normally the time after dinner and before bed is designated for quiet time. We’ll play cards, listen to stories, read books, sip hot tea, or as of late, just sit in a silent row on the couch and pour ourselves into our composition books.

Last night I couldn’t help but wonder what we were all filling our individual pages with. I asked my 11 year old daughter, “what are you journling about tonight?” She turned her page towards me, it was a list. Gifts for friends and family for the holidays. I asked my 7 year old son the same question? He showed me how he was practicing writing his numbers and drawing a picture story about ghosts who meet a human. Then of course I had to give my answer. I was hand lettering an affirmation that was bringing me peace. “Just for today, I will live for this day alone, and not try to solve all of my life’s problems at once.”

Then my son asked me “what are you supposed to write in a journal?” I told him absolutely anything that comes to your mind. Sometimes it might be a list, sometimes it might be a story or a picture, sometimes its a plan for something, or simply the thoughts that are cluttering up your heart or mind. Journaling can help you realize all the things you know. And it can also give your mind a place to create peace and gratitude. Journaling is like a super power! I told them.

I just love writing all kinds of things down. It helps me ground myself and discover my truth. Here are 3 journaling practices I use that are especially good for cultivating more creativity, contentment, and clarity.

Purging for creativity
The purge practice came from the book The Artist’s Way – The practice is to write for a set amount of time, say 10 minutes, without a preconceived prompt or topic in mind. The process implores us to write with complete inhibition, no regard for spelling, structure, or even logic. Just write and don’t stop until the timer rings. The results can bring a sense of lightness or relief. This practice is great for warming up for a creative project as well, cultivating self-awareness, or clearing out a seemingly cluttered or negative mindset.

The Unconditional Gratitude List for contentment The Unconditional Gratitude list comes from Melody Beattie’s book Make Miracles in 40 days. This practice is different from other gratitude practices in that it encourages us to list difficulties and challenges alongside our preferable circumstances. The idea is that we become willing to open our hearts and minds to the unfavorable aspects of our lives and appreciate them for the strength and growth they elicit in our lives. The benefits of making an unconditional gratitude list are endless, but some of the immediate results can include, a sense of groundedness and strength, appreciation and comfort, and It can also be an empowering and effective antidote to depression and/or anxiety.

Here’s what this might look like:

Today I am grateful for:

  1. The weekend to relax and recharge.
  2. This instrumental song called Find Enjoyment by Ray Barbee.
  3. The ache in the center of my back that prompts me to stack my vertebrae, engage my powerhouse, press my crown towards the sky, and breath deep.
  4. The anxiety I felt this week that sent me searching for peace and finding exactly what I needed in a free audiobook called The Simple Faith of Mr. Rogers.
  5. Tea that smells like oranges and cinnamon.

Getting to Hell Yes for clarity
Getting to Hell Yes communication model came from the book Getting to Hell Yes by Alexandra Jamieson and Bob Gower and it is very helpful in helping make tough decisions or getting clear on group efforts. The practice can be done with one’s self or with another person or group. The goal is to get clear about a topic or endeavor in the kindest and clearest way possible. The process requires each person answer the 4 questions (listed below) in the most complete and honest way possible. It is foundational that the person or persons participating in this are open and receptive, they are patient with themselves and others and pay attention without comment or judgment. The end result is a clear and concise understanding of individual intentions, concerns, needs, and desires. As a result, the information gained can lay the foundation for clear goals and action steps.

Intentions – for this day/goal/project?
Concerns – fears and/or paranoia?
Boundaries – what needs to happen to ensure I feel safe and free, what is needed from self and what is needed from others?
Desires – What would outcome look and feel like if it went exactly my way?

The 5 B’s of Doingness

 

#1 Beginning- I have to admit it is kind of intimidating staring at the blinking curser as it prods almost intrusively at my skill and ability to write. I just dive in. It seems characteristic of me, like jumping off the roof when I was 12, into the make shift snow mound.  Now, just like then, a second of uncertainty is less uncomfortable than the thought of standing there feeling frozen and unsure.  When I try to stay in one place and think it over patiently and rationally, I often just talk myself out of things.  I’d rather just take a chance and see what happens then spend too much time second guessing myself. I’m not afraid of mistakes.  I am afraid of feeling stuck.  So here I am.  I’ve begun to write. I’ve already gotten through a paragraph and it all seems relevant and thought provoking, which is after all what I was going for when I sat down to write my first piece for potential publication.

#2 Baby steps- I’ve never done this kind of writing but I’ve always wanted to.  “Well,” I think to myself “anyone who’s done anything has never done it before at one point.” This thought is very reassuring to me and so I press on.  I have found that whenever I do anything new or exciting, whether it is life changing like a move to a new place, a break up, or perhaps less serious like deciding to take a class or start an exercise routine, it’s best to just take it one tiny step at a time and not get all hung up on the final project.  I adhere to the saying  “Progress not perfection.”  Most of the time nothing turns out the way you thought it would anyway, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t turn out wonderful.  The fun part is often getting there and the little-by-little-stuff can be just as exciting as the final step into your original pursuit.

#3 Breaks- I stop writing and go to the store with my honey, due to late night BBQ cravings (an excuse to be outside and around the fire really).  All along I’m writing this in my head as we browse the isles at Fred Meyer’s for short ribs and salad dressing. Then I stop. “Wait, this is nice. I should enjoy this”, I think to myself as I grab my honey’s hand.  Sometimes we forget to take breaks when we are excited about doing something for the first time. I often get over involved forgetting to travel back to the surface of reality, for a breath of fresh air or a warm moment of clarity.  A deep breath is waiting for me here, between all my nerve and ambition, the sound of crackling embers or the plot of my four year old daughter’s day spilling out in broken words and infectious laughter.  When I step back into the project later I may have something more to bring with me than if I had just stayed and obsessed.

#4 But-what-if’s- I look over what I’ve already done. I start to get anxious and self-critical and then I stop myself and remember that mistakes are also great teachers.  It’s not enough to start something if I’m not going to give it my all. Sure it’s true not all things are meant to be, but if you don’t try your best and do everything you can to make it work you will never know.  I guess that brings me back to the “doing-ness” factor.  In the first place, it is tough sometimes to just get out there and do the stuff you’ve always wanted to do.  Whether it’s starting something or ending something. I don’t know exactly what makes it so difficult. Maybe it’s a case of relentless what-if’s rooted in our fears of failure and disappointment?  All I know is I’d rather be disappointed than disenchanted any day!

#5 Balls – I believe we should do the things we want to do even if others warn us not to. Isn’t that what all the greatest do-ers and revolutionists in history have done?  We are ordinary people but we can do extraordinary things and lead extraordinary lives, just by indulging our simplest dreams and want-to’s.   So I am doing this. Writing a column is one of the many things I’ve always wanted to do and I appreciate you being a part of it. I bid you all a good week full of opportunity, change and mistakes to urge your quests to do stuff.