Did you have one of those journal as a kid? The one with the cute little lock and the tiny key to keep your secret thoughts locked up so no one, could see them? Especially your annoying brother! I had one too. Maybe I had several. What did you write on those pages? My entries were very compelling and juicy. They went something like, “Dear Diary, today I went to school and it was boring. Mrs. Johnson speaks funny and her dresses are weird. I went to Kathy’s house after school. Mom made spaghetti for dinner. I am going to bed now. Talk to you tomorrow.” Pretty mundane stuff right?
Fast forward 50 years. Yes, I am revealing my age. I have journals in my closet from when I was 12 years old, spanning all those years up until today. I am still journaling today. As you may have guessed I am not writing about what I made for dinner last night. The other day I found another box of journals that I haven’t seen in a while. I looked in that box and found notebooks from my undergraduate years at Albion College in Michigan. What was fascinating to me was the topics that I was writing about. I was struggling with who I was, what I wanted to do with my life and how to navigate studying, my friends, my field hockey team mates and the meaning of life. I was having fun. College was interesting. I loved learning and going to class. And I was deeply concerned about my spiritual life. The problem was I didn’t know who to talk to about this. I was probably a little depressed too.
I was reading Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Ram Dass, and Annie Dillard. They were asking the same questions I was. That was comforting. But I couldn’t find any of my peers to talk with about these important questions. So I turned to my journals and kept writing. Who am I? Why am I here? What is this life for? Often this was a very depressing process. It was lonely too. There was no internet then. No cell phones. No one’s blogs to read. I often felt very isolated and misunderstood on a campus full of people. I found solace in nature much like Thoreau and Whitman. Walking in the woods, cross country skiing on the trails and running on the country roads near campus made me feel alive and connected to something greater that myself.
Now that I am over 50, I don’t feel depressed and lonely anymore. But the seeds of my discontent grew into rich and beautiful spiritual practices that nurture me today. My long runs on country roads have morphed into nightly walks at 9:30 pm with my dog in the quiet of my wooded neighborhood. The crickets sing, the stars twinkle, the coyotes howl and the wind whispers through the pines. There is peace and contentment as I walk in the dark.
My journals have become “morning pages” thanks to Julia Cameron and her book The Artist’s Way. Each morning I get a little antsy to get to my meditation chair to start writing. The pages have become a way to download the repetitive ruminations I sometimes get stuck in. They are a place to ask questions, to vent, to dream. These journal entries have also become a place to write my gratitude list every day. They are a place to write affirmations for my life. I write a list of those I pray for and hold dear in my heart on the back page of my journal. And when I take the time to read a few pages of last week’s musings, I find that some days I am very clear and focused on my path. Other days I am all over the place, angry, grumpy, and fuzzy about my direction. There is however, one overriding theme. I have become more grounded, centered, guided by spirit and less anxious about the outcome.
Lately I have adopted my 3 by 5 morning ritual. I write in my journal for 5 minutes. I sit with my hands over my heart and meditate for 5 minutes. Then I practice the Bioenergetic Grounding exercise known as the Bend Over for 5 minutes. See my blog, for more details about this. When I don’t do these little practices, my day seems off. I feel untethered as though I got up on the wrong side of the bed. Ignoring these rituals keeps me from connecting with my true self and throws off my entire day.
Are you a journal keeper? Do you have a morning ritual that helps you stay connected to your rich inner life? Are there some physical activities that you do daily that help you get grounded and feel more alive? Let me know what keeps you on track to your inner guidance. I love hearing from you.