Acknowledgement

What is acknowledgement?

Reflecting upon this recently, I have uncovered insights about it that are new to me.

Up until now I have considered acknowledgement to be something I do to others – people, things, ideas, opinions outside myself.

I have also perceived that acknowledgement can only happen around ‘positive’ things – or things with which I agree.

I was noticing that while I was quick to acknowledge others, I rarely acknowledged myself. Much resistance arose in me to the notion of self-acknowledgement.

So I chose to get curious.

What if acknowledgement, like charity, began at home? What if I acknowledged myself and my own experience first, then what?

And beyond that, what if I admitted acknowledgement of everything I feel and experience, whether ‘good’ or bad’ in my perception?

At first it’s a bit of a shock to notice how prevalent the ‘bad’ stuff is. It’s uncomfortable to acknowledge that I’m aware of suspicion or distrust. Often, by habit, I would deflect or deny these sensibilities. Anything to avoid feeling the fear that is at their root!

Nevertheless I’m committed to my curiosity. I practice acknowledging to myself that yes, there is something I am suspicious about. Going deeper I realise that the suspicion is some sort of fear in disguise. The next step is to acknowledge the fear, and allow myself to feel it.

Conscious breathing helps. Deep into my belly. Fully in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Gradually I feel and acknowledge the fear. I recognise where it comes from. The time I first felt it. When I was a little girl not knowing how to ask for something, and not trusting that I would be given what I asked for.

Feeling it now, acknowledging it now is like giving that little girl a hug. Soothing Her, telling Her it’s OK, that I’m here, that She has nothing to worry about, that She can have it.

In doing so something happens. Calm descends. The confusion and denial of non-acknowledgement dissipates. Some sort of space opens up. Acknowledging my own experience, and the feelings I have resisted up until now, makes it easier to see more clearly.

It’s as if I’ve coaxed the little girl back into the safety of her car-seat, while I clear the windscreen and take the wheel once more.

For your journal:

I acknowledge…

Acknowledgement is…

How do I acknowledge myself?

Who do I acknowledge most frequently?

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Ostara and the Hare

The Spring Equinox is here.

The Wheel of the Year is poised in perfect balance between light and dark.

As I pick up my journal I reflect on what is coming to light. And what I have learned during the dark time.

We have been almost a year under the restrictions of the pandemic. It has indeed been a Dream Time of sorts. A suspension. A time to go within and to reflect.

But now we are entering another Spring. I watch the birds in my garden: nut-hatches, robins, and great-tits fluttering round the feeders, with dunnocks, chaffinches, wood-pigeons and blackbirds pecking on the ground.

They bless me with their birdsong as I sit in the watery sunshine. The primroses and the daffodils have replaced the snowdrops. The fiery tulips are getting ready to ignite too.

I like the feeling of balance. I like the notion that the light and the dark are equal at the moment. And as the Wheel of the Year turns a little more I seek out the myths and legends of this festival time.

Our word Easter comes from the Spring goddess Ostara. The Hare is her familiar. Legend has it that when she bade her followers to bring her their most precious gifts the Hare brought only an egg, pale and round like the fullest of moons.

Eggs and moons are magically, cyclically connected. As the moon waxes and wanes so does the circle of life.

In some mythologies the Hare in the Moon is the messenger of immortality, of rebirth and resurrection. In western culture the Hare translates into the Easter bunny, heralding a time of plenty after a dark period of privation.

It’s a time of planting new seeds, embracing new energy and getting into action on the goals and dreams that developed during the winter.

For me, journal writing is part of the process to weigh anchor into the productive time of the year.

Why not take up your pen this spring equinox and reflect also on the message of the Hare?

Take a moment to respond to these prompts:

I am in balance when…

The most precious gift I bring is…

I am alert to…

What is coming to light is…

I embrace the potential of…

Enjoy your journal this festival!

The image is by artist and illustrator David Thelwell, who provided the nautical images for The Journal Writer’s Handbook.

His boxing, moonlit hares are a perfect reminder of the old stories that knit us to nature and the seasons as the Wheel of the Year turns.

In love

Juliet

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The trouble with breathing

I’ve a confession to make.

Up until now I’ve taken breathing for granted. Not only that, but I have also not fully appreciated the gift of breath.

And up until now, if I’d read those last two sentences anywhere else I would have nodded sagely. I would have intellectually agreed. I may even have taken pity on the writer.

“How can anyone not appreciate breath? Especially someone who purports to be all reflective and conscious?”

I can hear my self-righteousness now.

Yes I’ve practised yoga. Kundalini even. I’ve done my pranayama and the Breath of Fire.

I’ve done running and experimented with breathing quicker and slower depending on my pace.

I’ve also meditated on my breath (or so I’ve believed), focusing on how it moves in and out.

I’ve even breathed deeply with my face turned to the sun before picking up my pen to write in my journal.

And on each occasion, I have to admit, I’ve treated breathing as a technique – rather than the natural gift that it is.

So I’m curious.

If I think of breathing as a necessity for biological function – how does that affect my experience – of breath, of my body, and of life?

And if I think of breathing as a technique how does that differ?

Yet if I think of breathing as a gift – what gratitudes, insights and inspiration arise?

It’s all about perception. As I perceive, so I create my experience.

Recently I’ve been practicing abdominal breathing – feeling my belly rise and fall with each movement of my diaphragm. This is how babies breathe. It’s how my musical daughter breathes as she sings.

It’s so natural it’s easy to forget!

However I  have noticed that by taking a few conscious, even inhales and exhales deep into and out of my belly I feel different. I feel calmer. I feel grounded. My mind quietens. I am present.

None of this is new of course. It’s just that perceiving it as such brings me such wonder.

Why is it true that belly breathing is my most reliable route to peace? And why does that hold so much joy for me?

What is your perception of breathing? And how does it affect your experience?

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How to conquer anxiety

I am deeply moved by this blog by a fellow journal writer.

Whatever life throws at us it is within our gift in every moment to choose how we respond.

We don’t always have to respond in the same, conventional, routine ways. In fact life demands that we don’t by continuing to throw the same stuff at us until we wake up and get creative.

The writer of the above blog has woken up. She is looking for solutions and possibilities in the difficulties and discomforts of life. She has identified what she CAN do rather than brooding on what she cannot. And she is finding joy and possibility in that.

Let us salute her and learn from her.

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August 2, 2019 · 6:44 am

Revitalise your journaling

How do you keep the momentum in your reflective writing practice? Is it mainly down to will-power? Or is it a well-ingrained habit?

If your journaling feels like it’s flagging, try these tips to give it a boost.

  • Introduce a ritual

Journaling ought to be a choice rather than a chore. It offers some ‘time out of time’ – giving you valuable space to breathe and reflect and write.

As such it deserves its own ritual. For example, maybe your writing time is at the beginning of the day. In your writing space light a candle. Breathe deeply and sit quietly in meditation for a few moments. Set your timer for 10 minutes and take take up your pen. Either free-write or choose 3 or 4 prompts that speak to you and complete your daily entry. Thank your journal and yourself as you bring your entry to a close.

  • Choose a theme

Perhaps you will choose to write your gratitudes, or the things you appreciate. Maybe select some positive affirmation prompts to help you write a new story of your life.

Alternatively you might list your values and select one per week to reflect upon each day. In the morning name an intention that will enable you to express your value throughout the day. Then, in the evening reflect on how well you acquitted yourself. But resist the temptation to judge! Give yourself a pat on the back or merely decide how to do better next time.

  • Be present

Give yourself new awareness of your present self, your emotions and your environment by writing about what you can sense both physically and intuitively. Tune into your body and ask it how it feels. Notice how being present brings a sense of time expanding.

  • Silence your inner critic

Give yourself permission to allow your pen to move across the page. Suspend all judgement about spelling or grammar or neatness. And certainly don’t think about whether you are presenting your best thoughts to the page. All this is a sign of self-censorship. Send your inner critic off to play on the motorway and get scribbling.

  • Build a relationship with your journal

Treat your notebook as a trusted friend who is delighted to hear from you every single day. Thank it for being there, and for the qualities it reminds you of most. Occasionally invite your journal to write you a love letter, or a note of support and acknowledgement.

  • Play with perspectives

It’s not always necessary to write in the first person. Sometimes if you have difficult things that you wish to express you might choose to write about yourself in the third person. This technique also enables fresh understanding and compassion for your actions.

Have fun revitalising your journaling practice with these suggestions. For more inspiration grab yourself a signed copy of The Journal Writer’s Handbook – while stocks last.

 

 

 

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July 15, 2019 · 3:27 pm

What makes life worth living

The unexamined life is not worth living.

So said Socrates in the 5th Century BC.

And they are words that ring true two thousand years later. Reflecting on our experiences, examining what there is to learn, and what there is to leave, fills life with richness and depth.

Otherwise life can be pretty flimsy. Think of the difference between a living breathing presence, and a cardboard cut out.

If you’re like me you are looking for a substantial experience of life. And reflective writing can certainly deepen our understanding and appreciation of what life is offering us.

So how can you make your life worth living?

Here are some inquiries to encourage you to examine and reflect on your experience:

What pleases me?

Identifying the things that bring most satisfaction in life is an important baseline to establish.When we know what pleases us – even the simplest things – we can always find refuge and relief in them.

What is challenging me?

Rather than turn away from difficult situations it is worth considering what is making them difficult, and what you are being invited to learn. Are they intrinsically challenging – or is your perception and way of dealing with them a significant issue? And what lies on the other side of the challenge for you?

What calls me?

Becoming aware of the things that interest you, that always catch your eye, that you most appreciate and want to spend more time appreciating is a useful examination. When you feel a calling it has an urgency about it, an inspired impulse that is practically impossible to ignore.

How am I responding?

Do you talk yourself out of your impulses? Do you resist them? Are you over-thinking? Over-rationalising? This is a sign that you are not being true to your own life but are rather attempting to super-impose a set of rules or obligations or expectations that your ego mind feels more comfortable with.

When beginning to examine and reflect on your life bear in mind that it’s the juiciness that makes it worth living. Pleasure, appreciation, challenges, lessons, call and response are useful things to hone in on to feel productive, worthwhile and connected.

Do write in the comments what these inquiries evoke for you – and whether there are other access points for you in examining your life.

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For a source of prompts, exercises and inquiries to help you live an examined life, get your signed copy of The Journal Writer’s Handbook delivered to your door.

 

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July 8, 2019 · 1:12 pm

Getting past ranting

I have often used my journal to rant. I have often been so angry as I write that I push my pen through the page.

And it has often been cathartic. It has also often yielded new perspectives – once the initial ragings have burned away, as if my journal itself is pleading for its life. I am soothed. Until the next time.

I have written before about ranting here  and, rather beautifully, here.

Journaling is a great tool for absorbing the squawking frustrations of our monkey mind. It serves in the moment to download all our nastiness without having to inflict it on anyone else. But if that’s all we do, just write it out, then it frequently will come back to bite us.

It’s a good idea to get past ranting in your journal. I’ve learned that if all I do is rant then I run the risk of locking myself into a journaling loop, constantly revisiting it without much resolution. Writing is a powerful medium to reinforce our desires, beliefs, thoughts and wishes. It serves us to use it wisely, especially if our journal is an important tool in our personal development.

Of course you can choose to reserve your journal for the noting of things for which you are grateful or have appreciation. You need never descend to whining and whingeing at the pages if you so wish. But then you might find yourself in denial of the thing you most need to get off your chest.

To paraphrase Rumi, or if you prefer, “We’re all going on a Bear Hunt”, often the only way out of something is to go through it.

Which means converting our journal into a crucible of alchemy rather than a silo of toxic waste.

There are numerous techniques to enable this.

1.  The Handover

Entrust your rant to a higher power, and ‘hand it over’. You might use loose pages that you can then shred or burn in an emphatic ritual of relinquishment and release. You can then invite the superior entity of your choosing to give you inspiration for your next right step.

2.  Reporting

You might choose to detach yourself from your monkey mind and report in the third person on what it’s ranting about, rather than identifying with it. And conclude your entry with the prompt: “My advice in this situation is…” such that you identify yourself with your inner wisdom instead of the torment.

3. Telling a new story

At the time of this blog posting I am personally working through a series of daily prompts to help me actively change the story I’ve been telling about my life. Without taking conscious steps to tell a new story I risk cycling round the same set of unsatisfactory circumstances that have produced the undesirable results I am currently dealing with. Instead of ranting I am choosing to use prompts such as “I like knowing…”, “It’s fun to imagine…”, “I can see evidence of…”

This approach enables me to quickly invite perspectives about my experience which have a different energy; which aren’t mired in the disappointment and sadness I’ve been feeling. Within a short space of time – a matter of days – my mood and outlook have improved and new opportunities are revealing themselves.

4. Lessons learned

Acknowledge the frustration and then write about what you are learning through it, and what new resolutions you can make to change your experience.

In conclusion, if you find yourself stuck in the ranting loop, become an alchemist in your journal and use your emotions constructively.

What’s your way of getting past ranting? Do share in the comments.

Give the gift of journaling this Christmas

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June 13, 2019 · 2:11 pm

Boost your journaling with my Book Giveaway!

Do you have a copy of The Journal Writer’s Handbook yet?

I’m giving away signed copies of the Handbook while stocks last – and all you have to do is pay postage and packing.

Click here to sign up and receive your signed copy – and find out about a couple of other yummy goodies too!

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June 6, 2019 · 12:42 pm

‘Making a difference’

It’s striking in my coaching how many people have expressed the desire to ‘make a difference’ – and then become immediately stuck about how, where, and to whom.

We all want to contribute, to leave a legacy, something to be remembered for.

But finding out what that is can be taxing.

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that asking the question “where can I make a difference?” is already off target – and prompts a lot of fruitless casting about for causes or problems or broken things.

I’ve discovered that focussing on positions to defend or things to mend or situations to fix not only invites overwhelm, it also assumes that there IS a solution – and that I must be the only one to offer it. Or, that I better be the only one to offer it, otherwise I will have failed.

Then, OMG, the pressure! The massive burden of responsibility as I not only bust a gut trying to solve the problem, but also trying to be seen to be solving the problem AND making sure that there is enough perception of the problem for my solution to be appreciated.

It is exhausting, soul-destroying and utterly ineffectual – largely because it’s an approach totally concocted by the ego-mind wanting to prove itself and demonstrate its worth.

In some ways I think this explains a lot of what is awry in the world at the moment. Lots of people are so busy making a stand for this and that, running themselves ragged and getting bogged down trying to convince everyone that there are MASSIVE PROBLEMS over which we all need to stop everything we’re doing and give ourselves a good hiding.

Now I’m not saying that there aren’t massive problems in the world. Nor am I saying that none of us need to bother taking any responsibility.

What I am saying is that zealously pursuing the compulsion to be the one to make a difference isn’t the optimum approach.

The truth is we cannot and must not nurture the delusion that there are ‘things that are to blame’ and that nominating ourselves as the attackers of  ‘things that are to blame’ will solve the problems. Besides. once you start on the blame game it’s a short step to directing it inwards and then you’re stuffed.

So how can you contribute more? How can you make a difference – as surely every single one of us can?

The first step is to determine what’s driving you. Is it your ego or your heart? One way to figure this out is to pay attention to how much rationalisation and justification is going on. If there’s a lot of problem-related outrage, or any kind of reasoning about ‘what’s in it for you’ to help ‘solve the problem’, then it’s definitely not going to be a heart-based motivation.

When we make decisions from the heart they tend to be very quiet, very certain and very clear. They tend to announce themselves to us fluently in a single sentence, or a single word, with no explanation or logic. They feel like Truth.

If however you can identify an overactive ego calling the shots then the wisest thing to do is pause and quieten it down. Go for a walk or a run, get out into the garden or the park, sit next to a tree or a stream or a fire, meditate, write in your journal, reflect on what’s pushing you. Don’t listen to the persuasive justifications and seductive spin-offs.

How easy it is to talk ourselves out of our heart’s desire – and how often we do it. How often we put more words and excuses and reasons ‘why not’ in its way. All this is is resistance of our Truth. It is the efforting of ego as opposed to the appreciation of heart.

If you can drop the resistance and allow your heart to speak instead you will be amazed by how quickly you will become inspired. The next right step will immediately reveal itself to you. And you will understand an intrinsic, hidden logic to your action, rather than a grandiose, super-imposed rationalisation.

So when you are moved to want to make a difference, don’t follow the usual script. Instead do something different – and focus on your heart’s desire.

It could be that the biggest difference to be made is to yourself.

 

 

 

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May 20, 2019 · 3:43 pm

How to make fulfilling choices

Just over a decade ago I decided to pursue a writing career. I wanted to be able to tell people that I am a writer. I wanted to have this on my passport under occupation.

The thing that really helped me make this decision was the sense of productivity and purpose I felt when I spent time writing stuff that I intended to be read by others. I equated it to the freedom and ease I would feel cycling along on a smooth, effortless path, with the tic-tic-tic of the well-oiled cogs marking my progress.

Blogging was a god-send. Not only did I get to write, I also got to publish and reach readers at the push of a button. Even if it was just one or two people who appreciated my words – this still made it hugely worthwhile to have written them.

OK so maybe writing – or cycling! – isn’t your bag – so what is? And how do you choose work or activities or pastimes that help you feel on purpose and fulfilled?

The lessons I learned from my decision to become a writer have been very useful and have informed the rest of my life. Here are my biggest take-aways:

  1. Decide that you are going to find what fulfills you – what oils your cogs or floats your boat? It sounds daft, but so many people don’t take this step and end up going through the motions of their life, surviving rather than thriving. If this is not for you, wake up. Choose to be true to the ‘real you’, and commit to knowing who that is.
  2. To discover what fulfills you, pay attention to the moments that feel good; to what you most appreciate about your current experience; to what turns you on. It’s important to expect and accept good-feeling things as if your life depends upon it (which in a way it does).
  3. Then, tell the truth about your desire – to yourself and others. We need as much support as we can get in order to thrive and feel fulfilled – but we also need to fully accept and embrace for ourselves what fulfills us. Doing this wholeheartedly and without compromise makes it easier for others to accept also.
  4. Lastly, trust and follow through on the impulses that feel good. Start small – whether you want another 5 minutes in the sun or you want to get up at dawn and do a three mile hike before breakfast. Slowly but surely, as you pay attention to the good-feeling things, you will feel the impulse more and more to indulge. Over time from the small choices a bigger picture of life emerges, bringing fulfillment with it.

In my experience impulses can sometimes come when I haven’t yet fully accepted the truth of my desire. Yet I follow them anyway. Impulses come from the heart, whereas acceptance is more about aligning the mind. Sometimes it gets messy and people might get hurt (which is not such a good outcome) – but at least we all get to wake up and reassess. New or different choices may be made, and everyone learns and benefits in the long term.

And of course, as ever, journaling is a great way to track your progress.

What impulses are you becoming aware of? How are you honouring them? What effect does this have on the level of fulfillment you are experiencing?

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