Journaling: Writing from the Center
by Jane Keller
Journaling can take many different forms. The only requirement is that you find it useful and joy-filled. If you have an inner critic blocking your flow of ideas, the first thing you must do is eject it and permit yourself to write whatever you feel like writing. It may help you to remember that this is a private, confidential project and need be shared with no one.
You will want to choose a notebook or journal that is aesthetically pleasing to you, a writing implement that feels good. You may choose to use a computer, I-Pad, etc. Ideally, it should be something that you can easily take with you. If you prefer a different medium, you can use a sketch book to record images or symbols or events, perhaps with captions or commentary. Use crayons and colored markers to draw pictures, emphasize passages and play with what you have written. You might discover that you really are an artist, and you may find that your drawings teach you.
Your journal can begin as a response to a reading, or the events of your day, or a spiritual insight, or your meditation or prayer, or events in the world.
For some, this writing will be simply a memoir, perhaps a record of how God has been moving in his/her life or how his/her spiritual life is evolving. You may want to record and reflect on the dry periods and setbacks you experience. Sometimes a few sentences will be enough and sometimes you may want to write in detail and at length.
For many, journaling itself can be a meditative experience. As you write, new insights may come and your observations may take you to new depths of understanding or spiritual growth.
You may want to begin with some questions of Examen. Here is a list that may give you some ideas: In what ways has the Spirit made its presence known to me? What joys and delights have I encountered? What difficulties or frustrations?
Which spiritual disciplines have I used to further my journey? What temptations have I faced today? How did I respond? Have I sensed any influence of or work of the Spirit today? What spiritual gifts have I used? What fruit of the Spirit would I like to see increase in my life? In what ways have I been able to manifest the Presence of the Spirit today?
More briefly, you can simply ask; Where was Love today? How did I miss it? Meet it?
You may want to undertake the more ambitious Quaker journal, such as John Woolman’s or George Fox’s. Basically, it is an account of the presence and work of God throughout one’s life. This can be written in response to simple questions such as “Where has God been most noticeably present over my lifetime? How was I guided/led to the point in my journey I’ve reached? Where/what have been the shaping gifts, lessons, turning points along the way?
You may want to copy passages of things you have read into your journal. These may become more important to you as you stumble upon them from time to time. You will be amazed at how God’s grace has worked in your life, and continues to work in it.
You may want to record your dreams, and then go back years later and re-read them. Very often you will learn more about your journey, your relationship with your family and friends, and God by recalling old dreams in the present moment.
One of the long -term benefits of journaling is being able to spend time reading your own journal of things that you held dear in your past. Some Friends who have kept journal for 30 years or more still learn about their journey by reading earlier writings. If you are just starting, what you wrote a month ago will teach the same lessons. What a resource in understanding how God has moved in your life!
When you reread your journal, write new insights or learnings in the margins and date it. Ten years from now it will continue to inform your journey.
Based on Listening Spirituality Vol. 1 Personal Spiritual Practices Among Friends (1997) by Patricia Loring