Category Archives: Journal Writing

An alternative Christmas list

The thought occurred to me just this morning that a lovely gift to receive at Christmas would be a list of reminders.

Sometimes it would be nice to be reminded of the things we love but always forget to buy for ourselves. Like candles, or bath salts, or underwear, or thermals, or new ink.

In my case I play golf but I forget that I need golf balls or a towel to wipe my clubs on, or a new club head cover for my driver.

It would be lovely to receive such a list from someone who knows us well, who has watched us navigate through our various activities and listened to our joys and frustrations. Someone who has taken notice, then taken the time to note it all down.

Of course you could argue that such a person would probably do as well to buy us the little things we forget to acquire ourselves. But there remains in my mind something delicious about receiving a list that begins: “I know how much you enjoy your candlelit bathtimes, and your morning coffee with your journal and fresh ink, and hitting a clean shot on the golf course, and being warm, and wearing something slinky underneath…so I suggest your list of things to remember for yourself includes….”

Sometimes the gift of acknowledgement and recognition is worth a million parcels! And next Christmas I won’t be at a loss to know what to ask for!

Perhaps our journal can play this list-making role for us. It certainly is a great tool for our self-care.

So what list of reminders would your journal write for you? Take up your pen and invite your journal to remind you of the little things that bring you most joy, that you can give to yourself throughout the year.

Happy Christmas.

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December 12, 2018 · 12:51 pm

Journaling to fit – or fit in?

I’m thinking a lot at the moment about my life and my experience. I guess I’ve always been the same. It’s always preoccupied me how I be part of the whole without losing my individuality.

Wondering how to fit in is an insidious past-time. It becomes an obsession – what others think of us, how we will be judged, whether we will be rejected.

It causes us to lead fearful and sometimes paralysed existences.

Much better then to be fit – for our own purpose.

And in my understanding this means figuring out how to be our best self. How to become aware of what drives us and inspires us; how to weigh our strengths and weaknesses, and how to figure out what we should do about these.

Do we blow our trumpet about our strengths to drown out our weaknesses? Do we justify our weaknesses and attribute them to our less than perfect life experiences? Do we blame others for them?

I’ve frequently read some very wise words about how to deal with our weaknesses. Namely, we need to accept them, and, if we’re brave enough, dive into them to see what is under the surface of them.

What needs are being expressed through our weaknesses?

Once we get that far we have a bit of a conundrum. Perhaps our needs are unconventional. Perhaps we might start worrying that fully owning our needs will cause us to be ostracised by society.

It’s tempting to allow external judgements to cause us to stifle and deny our needs. It is also important to remember that our own ego will taunt us with its own souped-up version of  external judgements to keep us stuck and towing the line.

But if we’ve explored our weaknesses reflectively and honestly, in a way that is true to who we are, then we can begin to imagine how best to fulfil our needs in their entirety, without compromising our best self.

As reflective writers, our journal is absolutely the laboratory for this kind of investigation.

Our life experience becomes the dance between fitting in and being fit for our own purpose. Our journal is the place where we can test our thoughts and imagine a life lived according to what we think, rather than what we think others think.

jigsaw-hans-peter-gauster-252751-unsplash

(I love the image of the jigsaw pieces by Hans Peter Gauster on Unsplash. It is a great metaphor for our uniqueness. And the notion that unless we know all our edges and curves and irregularities we can never know exactly where or how we fit in. But that when we boldly show all of our shape it becomes obvious who we are and that we are the only one who can complete the picture.)

 

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December 11, 2018 · 12:24 pm

Why journaling’s time is now

I’ve been a journal writer forever. And I’ve been a personal development junkie (in the nicest possible way) since about 1999.

I’ve done all sorts on this journey – trained as a coach, run workshops, taken mindfulness talks into schools when hardly anyone in schools was practicing mindfulness… I’ve even feigned a 3 year old’s tantrum in a seminar full of solicitors, to try and show them the power of perspective. It was not one of my highlights.

And all through this process I’ve kept a journal. In 2012 I published a book about it too.

But it’s only really now that I think the time for journaling has truly come.

Why?

Here’s my list:

  1. We live in a world that is becoming increasingly fake and flakey. It’s difficult to know whether we are being told the truth on numerous scores. Sorting out our own subjective reality and experience – and training ourselves to be as honest and impeccable about that as possible – is important for our sanity. Journaling supports that.
  2. We have no control over anything other than ourselves. If we want to make any kind of change in the world we need to start with ourselves as individuals. Journaling gives us that space to know ourselves.
  3. Originality and innovation start in the imagination. If we want to contribute freshness to our world we need to give ourselves permission to explore our own imaginations and escape the cookie-cutter approach of our education. Journaling totally enables that.
  4. Independence of thought is vital to a fulfilling life. Otherwise we risk following the sheeple and missing out on the reason we’re here, or, better put, the infinite number of potential reasons we’re here. Journaling gives us the power and practice to think for ourselves.
  5. Finding a purpose for ourselves, and being able to regularly remind ourselves of that purpose through reflective writing, brings us inspiration and joy in life. Then we can take less notice of the sheeple s**t. Journaling is a great vehicle for purposeful exploration.
  6. And last but not least, as with meditation, we can train our egos to calm down and tune in more frequently to the under-pinning principles that make life worth living – those of Love and Compassion. Journaling gives us a private space to do this without spiritual by-passing; a place where we can vent our shadow side and gently bring ourselves back to our Truth.

Dr Jordan Peterson advocates self-authoring to determine for ourselves what path we wish to take in life, and to figure out how to discipline ourselves to get there. I agree with him – and I also think giving ourselves time to smell the roses is important too.

Honesty, individuality, imagination, independence, purpose, love and compassion are some of life’s sweetest scented blooms. Don’t miss out.

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November 28, 2018 · 10:22 am

The benefits of journaling – on Elephant Journal

Please take a look at my new article on the benefits of journaling, published today on Elephant Journal!

What benefits do you acheive through journaling?

Do get in touch – especially if you’ve experienced any of the positives that I write about in the Elephant Journal piece!

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November 23, 2018 · 5:46 pm

Think for yourself

“The moment you begin to write…you are making a declaration of independence, determining to think for yourself..”

This quote by Irish writer Dermot Bolger is how I open The Journal Writer’s Handbook. It appears in bold lettering ahead of the preface. It is the reason I write, and the reason I wrote the Handbook.

Independence of thought and knowing how to think for ourselves are increasingly important. We live in various social media driven echo chambers, where  group-think is all too prevalent, pressuring us to adopt an “acceptable” point of view that will neither offend nor incite any kind of “wrong” action or belief.

What we read in the media is increasingly untrustworthy. More than ever we have to rely on our own judgments, and our own research, in order to understand what is really going on in the world.

So we need to deepen our discernment. We need to know our own minds. We need to be able to recognise the subtle intuitive nudges that hint to us when things are “off”. We need to feel our own truth in order to then identify the Truth around us.

Independence has always been a theme in my life. I went to private school outside the comprehensive state system; as a young woman I travelled and worked abroad and learned self-sufficiency and how to fend for myself in tricky circumstances; in middle-age I like to buck convention and create opportunities for myself.

Maybe I was too independent. I was stubborn with it, so I was often alone, choosing to be on my own in the things I did rather than rely too heavily on others.

It was at these junctures that writing became central to my experience of my life. Keeping a journal or writing letters home helped me express myself when there was noone else around to hear, and it also helped me get clear on the page about who I am and what I think.

Acclaimed academic, author and commentator Jordan Peterson is now advocating the same kind of idea – that we take some time to write things down about our lives and aspirations. His online self-authoring programme is a guided process to documenting one’s thoughts and opinions – and DANG I wish I’d thought of it.

Of course writing isn’t the only way to learn to think for yourself. Good quality, open and curious conversations help too, but you have to be a lot less stubborn than I was to make these work! Meditation practice is also conducive – funny that sometimes it’s better to quiet the mind to know the mind.

Whatever approach you take do it. Learn to think for yourself. The world needs your view.

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Filed under Journal Writing, Self-Awareness

Make a distinction

The only resolution I made for 2018 was to distinguish between the work I do for love – my own writing, and the work I do for money  – word-smithing for businesses.

Distinctions bring clarity. And clarity enables us to be creative, productive and to attract opportunities effortlessly.

One of my most favourite books is A Room with A View by E M Forster in which he champions love and truth over social niceties. Without the honest appraisal of what we truly love we will forever be “in a muddle” – and therefore less effective in our efforts.

Giving more focus to the things we love rather than the things we do out of obligation imbues us with clarity and power.

So it’s worth being honest with ourselves and making the distinction.

As a result my writing spark is back with a vengeance. I’m having fun writing my blog and new business enquiries are arriving at my door. Before I was muddled in my thinking about writing – so my focus and energy were confused and dissipated. I was perhaps falling for the assumption that having more things to focus on would rob me of time.

Rather having sharper focus on more distinct things feels like I have generated more time, and infinitely more ideas. Inspiration and words are flowing; and my skills are in demand.

The Journal Writer’s Handbook contains an exercise called Lists of Distinction, encouraging you to distinguish between your talents, gifts, skills and interests. Sharpening your focus on each throws up more clarity, more possibility and more choice about the things that lead you to a greater sense of creativity, fulfillment and joy.

Don’t be muddled. Be distinctive. Make your own distinctions.

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Filed under Creative process, Journal Writing, The Journal Writer's Handbook, Uncategorized

What outcomes are you attracting?

Today was the day my Mum was scheduled to have complex spinal surgery. My plan was to drive the 159 miles to be with her. So at 9am I began packing the car and getting ready to leave. I then received a phone call from my brother asking me where I was.
“I’m still at home” I replied.
“Good,” he said. “Stay there. They’ve just cancelled the op.”
Over the course of the ensuing ten minutes I came to understand that the surgeon called a halt to the proceedings because the operating theatre had the wrong table in it.
I began to feel angry and sad, and confused. I heard the tears in Mum’s voice. She’d been terrified of this procedure, and to have it denied her in the eleventh hour was piling on the agony. She was even gowned up and had a line drawn on the skin of her back to mark the incision point.
Yet the surgeon refused to proceed with the wrong table in theatre. He explained that he was not prepared to risk it as he has to work within a tenth of a millimetere from a nerve that if damaged would result in paralysis.
In a quiet moment of reflection after I put down the phone I realised that everything is working out perfectly.
Through this aborted process Mum got to see how much care and attention was being paid to her.
For example, there were 6 people on the team for her op – plus the lead surgeon – and including one guy who’d driven 189 miles to be there. Mum was the only one on today’s roster. All these people had gathered just for her.
 And the fact that the surgeon was prepared to send everyone home and cancel the op rather than run the risk ought to offer Mum a good deal of reassurance about his conscientiousness and duty of care.
I then realised something quite bizarre:  that between us Mum and I managed to attract the cancellation. Through her fear and my resistance to her fear together we have conspired to co-create the eventuality of this operation not going ahead.
In other words, while she was harbouring mortal fears about the procedure, I was pressing for optimism, healing and mobility. We were pulling in opposite directions, and in the process managed to cancel out the op.
I am blown away. I am so grateful for this lesson. And I am also appreciating that Mum and I have another chance to prepare for this operation with less fear and resistance, and more trust and confidence.
Everything is working out perfectly.
In the light of this my reflections are that journaling can be a very powerful magnet for our lived experience. However we express ourselves in writing can play a part in how we shape our lives.
So if we frequently use our journals to rant words of anger and bitterness, then we reinforce angry and bitter experiences in our reality.
If we use our journals to write our appreciations and love letters, then we enhance our reality with loving and appreciative experiences.
In fact, whether we write it or not, our lived experience will be affected by how we feel.
And it’s important to know that there isn’t always a counterweight (my resistance to Mum’s fear) to neutralise our fear, anger or bitterness. Sometimes we create our own momentum, and whether it’s good or bad, positive or negative, the more we feel it, the more we attract it.
Pay attention to the outcomes you are attracting. And use your journal as a tool to reinforce the feelings that will create the outcomes you desire, rather than perpetuate those you don’t.

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Filed under Journal Writing, Law of Attraction