A day of alignment

As the moon begins to bite its eclipse into the sun on this spring equinox – the first time there has been this perfect an alignment since 1681 – it’s an inspiring day for us to pick up our journal and write about what we are aligning ourselves with in our life.

Some great inquiries and meditations can happen today – when the celestial bodies in our tiny area of the cosmos are being extraordinarily cooperative.

The moon is 400 times smaller than the sun – yet it is 400 times closer to the earth, which makes it like David to Goliath, able to completely block out the visible surface of the sun from our view.

So take up your journal and explore.

What are you aligned with?

What is your true David to Goliath power?

What will you overcome in order to achieve your dreams?

Happy eclipse day. Happy first day of spring.

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Journaling for entrepreneurs

Last week I presented a 20 minute talk about journal writing to a group of 15 small business owners at a networking breakfast. They’re a great bunch with whom I network on a regular basis, and as they can be quite lively I was curious to see how they would respond to some quiet time to write reflectively.

Having explained a little bit about the power of journaling I then led them through 4 carefully selected journaling prompts – to break them in gently!

I was thrilled that for 10 whole minutes the whole group – most of whom were not accustomed to this type of activity – sat and wrote. The sense of mindful calm that descended upon the room was luscious – and something that I have become very familiar with, and fond of, when encouraging groups of people to reflect together.

In the spirit of reviewing and setting goals and intentions for the New Year, the prompts I suggested were:

I am grateful for..

It is a time of…

My accomplishments this week have been…

Next week I promise myself…

After the session there were a number of questions and comments, and a real sense that beginning the day mindfully was a positive thing.

I hope that more business owners will give journaling a try to gain perspective, test out ideas and tap into their inner wisdom, creativity and resourcefulness. After all this is the true spirit of the entrepreneur.

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Reflection and gratitude pave the way for success

Wow.

What a worthy sounding title to this post.

But right here at the start of 2015, fresh out of a Christmas break which I mostly spent with my nose in books such as The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson and The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters, I am convinced that, worthy though it may sound, reflection and gratitude are vital components in a successful life.

And even though it sounds worthy – and not at all hard-nosed and business-like – this is what I’m going to tell my fellow networkers during my journaling presentation to them this coming Thursday.

I’m mad about journaling. You might have guessed. And I’m convinced that far from being the favourite pastime of spinster aunts, journaling can help everyone in all walks of life, from the most spiritually orientated individual to the more business-savvy. After all what happens in your journal stays in your journal. But there’s nowhere to hide when you’re writing to yourself.

So reflection and gratitude are the cornerstones of my New Year’s resolutions for 2015. As well as making sure my desk and the kitchen table are clear of clutter at the end of every day.

Following Jeff Olson’s advice I’m taking the time to write down every morning three things that I am grateful for. And to reflect on the most positive thing that happened in the previous 24 hours.

I’ve been doing this for as many days as the year is old and already notice some remarkable effects. I am much more optimistic, determined and calm. And from this place I can be more focussed on what success means to me.

It’s not so worthy – but it’s worth a great deal.

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Metamorphosis through art and journaling

It’s always a huge privilege to talk to artists about their work. I find it brings their creations to life for me in a way I don’t know that I’d get just by viewing their work in a gallery. I love to understand their process, the questions they begin with, the choices they make and how these present themselves.

Creating art is vital to our humanity, though often in our utilitarian, materialistic worldview it is more convenient, or more practical, to believe otherwise. However I am a fan of art and artists.

As a journal writer I like to reflect on what art has given me whenever I have encountered it. A couple of weeks ago I enjoyed a fabulous conversation with Swindon-based multi-media artist Jill Carter. Her collection Curious Narratives contains drawings, found items, photographs, stitched dolls, journals and items to wear, chronicling her time travelling in Italy, in search of the mythical Sybils, the prophetic women of the Classical world.

The Sybils

Jill’s Sybils, depicted here in pen and ink, are left to right a doll, a healer and a donor. It feels like these are symbols of her process and motivation.

I am intrigued by what dolls, and stitching, mean to Jill. Both are central to her work. Jill tells me that dolls signify our childlike creativity and expression, but she also considers them to be the story keepers, representing ritual and spiritual healing, like religious icons.

After working in social settings Jill describes feeling overwhelmed by people’s stories and how she felt herself being drawn to stitching dolls. I wonder whether this is about containment, holding in that which we cannot process or resolve. It’s like praying, transferring our pain onto an inanimate approximation of ourselves, in the hope of transformation. And the thought occurs to me that this could be why some people find dolls creepy – the artificial, frozen features are the repositories of unidentified fear and suffering.

After the stitching comes the healing. This feels like integration, and is akin for me to journaling. Once we are healed, once we have that clarity, then we can give. It is a metamorphosis of sorts.

Where are you on the journey from stitching to giving? How does your journal and your process help you heal?

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The chinks in our armour

Vulnerability is a personal hot potato for me at the moment. It is also the topic of one of my prompts being used by the international journaling community in the 30 day digital journaling challenge.

So I was fascinated by the new series on Channel 4 featuring Grayson Perry’s quest to find the real identities of people, famous and not so, vulnerable and not so, and to represent these artistically.

In the first programme Perry was spending time with people who are grappling with their identities in transition. He spoke to a young British single Mum who has recently converted to Islam; to Rylan, the winner of celebrity Big Brother, who is embarking on fame as a career; and to Jaz, a black, British 24 year old who is navigating the waters of gender change and is trying to establish his identity as a man. These are all places where we can feel at our most vulnerable, stepping into experiences previously unknown to us, but which compel us anyway.

However it was Perry’s interview with disgraced politician Chris Huhne which was the most uncomfortable, and revealing.

Grayson Perry: Who Are You?

The question was Who are you? And despite the fact that Huhne comes across as thick-skinned and resilient as a rubber doll, Perry was determined to find the chinks in his armour. Perhaps this is a flaw in the artist, preferring to project onto his subject what he hopes to find, rather than representing him as he is. Or perhaps it is artistic genius to show our truth despite ourselves.

Nonetheless, instead of a rubberised doll with Chris Huhne’s face, Perry created a pot – an appropriate ‘empty vessel’ as James Delingpole would have it – decorated with Warhol-esque repetitions of Huhne’s face and car registration plate, along with repeating images of penises. Perry then took a hammer to  the pot, smashing it into numerous pieces, before gluing it back together and highlighting the cracks with gold leaf. The symbolism being that it is our human flaws, our vulnerabilities, which make us most precious and interesting.

It can be tempting to present a rubberised version of ourselves to the world. But this wouldn’t be human. Nor would it be true.

Our vulnerabilities are worth exploring. They are where our treasure lies. Journaling is a safe way to explore them, and as Grayson Perry identified, they are worth their weight in gold.

 

 

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Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes

One thing I know journaling is excellent for is considering other people’s perspectives and points of view. Something about our inner voice always guides us towards empathy and compassion if we listen carefully enough. There is simply nowhere to hide once we follow our journaling practice.

But we can still have blind spots borne out of ignorance. Our inner voice has little to say about things it hasn’t ever experienced. Sometimes we have to push ourselves a little bit further to fully understand what others experience.

This is what I did last week at Diane Torr’s Be a Man for the Day workshop.

I spent the day with six other women writers, none of whom I had met before. We shared our experiences of men and gender. We talked about far more than just cross-dressing. It was an exercise in poetry; in trying to understand male attitudes and behaviours by literally growing a beard – or at least sticking one on –  and wearing the trousers, all for the sake of our writing and our understanding.

Chris Stone

It was revelatory. And strangely taught me more about myself as a woman.

I learned how much I smile as a woman. And laugh. How much I repeat myself in a bid to be heard and acknowledged, or make the right sounds and gestures to ensure others feel comfortable.

In contrast as a ‘man’ all I had to do was own the space I was occupying in order to have an impact. No smiling. No unnecessary chit chat. Certainly no thought for anyone else’s comfort but my own. It felt dour. Aggressive at times.

By the end of the day we had a new-found compassion for men. A new appreciation about the emotional restrictions many men experience, and how hard it must be to forge friendships and meaningful relationships with each other.

The man I became is called Chris Stone. That’s him in the pic. I haven’t yet invited his voice into my journal. Feels a bit scary. But I’m sure it will be fascinating.

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What would Nathan do?

It’s day 3 of the 30 day digital journaling challenge and I’m thrilled to be on-board, gaining insights into the journaling progress of so many wonderful people around the world, and also experiencing a new form of journaling for myself.

It’s early days – and I know myself well enough to recognise my penchant and enthusiasm for shiny new things, which can wane after a while, and when real life kicks in – but at the moment I am astounded by the fluency and ease with which my journal entries are tapping themselves out onto my keyboard.

I’ve always been an advocate of handwritten journals, and will never give up the joy of ink and paper, especially when it is beautifully bound, and feels satisfyingly weighty to hold. Plus the fact that I consider writing to be a physical act, involving real fine motor skill and miraculous neural links and networks. Somehow typing has been to this what I would consider Tiger Woods’ Wii golf to be to the real game.

However.

The real reason for this blog  is not to talk about how excited I am to be typing my journal for a change. (Though for anyone wondering what I’m using I have to confess to just creating dated documents in polaris on my android tablet and backing them up to Dropbox.)

No.

The real reason for this entry today is because I want to say a huge, public thank you to Nathan Ohren and his team for making the digital journaling challenge possible – and for being such an engaging and big-hearted champion for personal empowerment through expressive journaling.

I first ‘met’ Nathan in Spring 2013 when he interviewed me for his JournalTalk podcast series. What a great idea! And he turned out to be a great communicator and an excellent talk-show host. Since then he and I have been friends in the social media space and I am always delighted when he contributes his comments in response to events in my life.

Nathan Ohren

So when he invited me to be part of the current challenge I was very honoured. I admire his enthusiasm and drive and willingness to help others achieve their best. I have to admit that sometimes when I’m stuck in my work, wondering how best to contact a prospect or client, or trying to address a thorny communication issue, I often ask myself what Nathan would do. It always helps.

Without wishing to make Nathan blush any more, I’m wondering if this in itself could be a journaling exercise? To identify someone with qualities you admire and wish to emulate; and to enquire, open-heartedly, about what they would do in your shoes when facing a tricky problem.

And don’t forget to thank them when you get the chance.

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