Read an Excerpt
Journaling to Awaken Your Inner Voice, Heal Your Life, and Manifest Your Dreams
By Sandy Grason
New World LibraryCopyright © 2005 Sandy Grason
All rights reserved.
Where Do I Start?
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What is journaling? In March 1770, John Adams wrote, "The only way to compose myself and collect my thoughts is to set down at my table, place my diary before me, and take my pen into my hand." More recently, Oprah Winfrey was quoted as saying, "Keeping a journal will absolutely change your life in ways you've never imagined." What's the big deal? Why do so many spiritual practices and teachers recommend journaling? As Louise Hay, bestselling author of the book You Can Heal Your Life, once wrote, "It is so important for each of us to take that inward journey and discover what attitudes and beliefs we hold within ourselves."
I believe, as the title of this book suggests, that journaling can be used as a tool for healing and manifesting in your life. Perhaps you have never journaled, and you want some guidance about how to begin. Or maybe you have been journaling all your life and you want to go deeper with your practice. No matter what your past experiences with journaling, this book will meet you where you are and take you on a transformational journey. I will lead you through a process that I teach in my journalution workshops. We'll begin by cleansing the past, forgiving yourself and others, and getting clear about who you are and what you want. Then we'll move on to discovering your passion, developing your life vision, and manifesting the life you want.
In this first chapter, I will go over some information that pertains to a new journaler: what you need to get started; how to choose your own perfect journaling tools; where, when, how much, and lots of what if 's; and my personal approach to journaling. There are many journaling styles, and many of you have been journaling for some time; please always listen to your intuition. If something I am suggesting doesn't feel right, go with your gut. You know what is best for you. You are your own best expert.
Everyone has a different motivation for journaling. You may be dealing with an illness in your family or going through big changes in your life. You may want to use your journal for creative purposes, to discover your passion, or to begin a book of your own. No matter what your intended purpose, this book will give you a plethora of tools and ideas to make your journaling a fulfilling and rewarding experience.
Why Should I Journal?
The reasons we journal are as varied as the different types of journals piled high on bookstore shelves today. Journaling brings self-knowledge. Writing down your thoughts, venting your emotions about a problem or situation in your life, or just recording scribbles, poetry, inspiring quotations, and dreams brings you closer to who you are. It is a window into what is important to you.
You may have a particular intention for your journal. You may want to leave a legacy for your children or heal from a divorce. You may be working through an illness, or you may need to release emotions in a healthy way. You may be developing material for a novel or otherwise nurturing your creativity.
But you don't need to have a specific reason. A journal can be a companion, a best friend, a way to tap into your intuition, or a place to dump your emotions so they don't land on friends and loved ones. Your journal can be a way to clean out the junk in your head so you can focus on what is really important to you.
Ultimately, writing in a journal is an act of self-love. Your journal is a safe place to get to know yourself and discover who you are. It can bring clarity in a confusing world that bombards us with messages and images of who we should be, what we should want. A journal allows us to paint a picture of what we want our lives to be, and helps us love ourselves enough to create it. Your writings, musings, and doodles are a way to talk to your soul.
This book will be your guide on the journey into your soul. It may be a healing journey for you, as it was for me, or your journey may have a different purpose. Remain open, and trust that you have all the answers you need inside you. Believe me, you do have those answers, and this book will help you hear them.
Tools of the Trade
Selecting a journal is the first step. You can plan a quiet moment for yourself and browse through your favorite bookstore for the journal that calls out to you. Or, in a moment of inspiration, you may grab the nearest spiral notebook, scrap of paper, or blank envelope on which to capture your thoughts. Some people prefer a larger journal because they write big. Some enjoy scribbling in tiny books that fit into their front pockets. Others like to use a huge artist's sketchbook as a canvas. Some people create unusual and beautiful journals by pasting pictures and drawings on the cover and throughout. The company Moleskine makes a legendary pocket journal that boasts a tiny hardbound cover and a hidden interior pocket. It is said that artists have used it for centuries — from Vincent van Gogh to Ernest Hemingway — and it is still sold in bookstores today.
Both lined and unlined journal pages are fully functional. Unlined pages tempt us to draw and doodle amidst the words, but some prefer lined pages because they can't write straight or have enough trouble reading their handwriting without the liberty of a completely blank page. Still others use their computers because they can type really fast; they find that they don't edit themselves as much when typing, and can let their thoughts fly out through their fingertips. For your consistent journaling practice, I encourage you to have something nearby that feels comfortable and works with your lifestyle and personality.
Some people keep separate journals: one for gratitude, one for dreams, and one for everyday matters. Or you might want to keep a travel journal, a nature journal, and a goal journal. Do what feels right for you. I write in only one journal at a time, and I write anything and everything. I like the idea of having a chronological record of everything that is going on in my life — the happy, the sad, the beautiful, and the ugly — all in one place. A workshop participant who was working with her dreams told me that she likes to write down her dreams in a separate journal so that she can recognize patterns that appear. Another woman told me that she keeps separate journals for each of her children, containing messages, advice, and stories about that child's life — a gift for later in their lives.
Dreamy Writing Things
Pens, pencils, markers, and glitter pens. Have you seen the aisle at your local office-supply store lately? The choices are abundant and tremendously personal. Every color of the rainbow is available, in numerous ergonomically designed choices.
Hold a pen or pencil in your fingers, rolling it back and forth against your skin. What does the material feel like? Some are heavy and thin and made of metal, and some are light and round with rubber grippers for your fingers. How does the writing utensil feel as it moves across the paper? Does it glide effortlessly, or scratch against the paper as you form the words? Which do you prefer? Would you like to use an old-fashioned inkpot and feather pen, while visions of Mozart dance in your head? Do you want to use different colored pens or markers to express how you are feeling on a certain day? Do you have visions of doing pencil drawings in the park, using the pencil to shade your subjects in just the right light?
Consider this first decision — selecting your tools — as an exercise in "What do I really want? What makes me feel good? What speaks to me?"
There are no wrong answers.
Where Should I Journal?
Journal everywhere! Imagine that you are curled up in an overstuffed chair with the warm sunlight streaming through the window just over your right shoulder. Outside, the ocean is dancing with the sunbeams. You hold your journal on your folded legs and pour your thoughts onto the paper. Or perhaps you would prefer a large pine table with a vase of fresh flowers and a beautiful painting that transports you to another land. You write quickly and effortlessly with one hand. The other hand rests on the table, palm down, soaking in the wisdom of the universe, which courses up through your arm and into your heart before it pours onto the blank page. Insights and revelations flow to you, and through you, to share with the world.
Ideally, you would have a cozy corner set aside for writing, surrounded by wonderful things that make you feel safe and loved, bathed in perfect light, and maintained at the perfect temperature. But, truthfully, you can write anywhere, any time. I keep my journal with me, in a canvas bag that contains books I am reading, projects I am working on, and lots of pens and highlighters. I like to know that if I happen to stumble across a poem or quote that moves me, I can jot it down in my journal right then.
If I'm sitting in the doctor's office and two women next to me are having a philosophical discussion that inspires me, I want to be able to begin the same conversation with myself in my journal, right then, while I'm feeling motivated. If I arrive ten minutes early to pick up my daughters at school, I sometimes use those precious moments to capture my life, my feelings, and my identity.
Where would you like to journal?
When Should I Journal?
Is it better to wake up with the sun and journal first thing in the morning, or to reflect on your thoughts and insights at the end of the day? Does it make a difference if you journal at the same time each day? Some books will tell you that it's best to write first thing in the morning when your mind is clear or just after a thirty-minute meditation. Others will tell you that you should write at the end of the day, capturing all the wonderful things that happened throughout the day and visualizing what you want to see happen tomorrow. There are many opinions on these matters, and I believe you must find what works for you. As you work through this book, try everything.
I've tried all of the above suggestions, as well as numerous other routines, and I find that different times of day work for me in different ways. When I am trying to tap into my creativity, the early morning hours are magical. However, when I am dealing with a problem, the faster I can get to my journal and dump all of my emotions, the sooner I will have my answer. The revelations always come; I just have to give myself and my problems completely to the blank page.
My journal entries happen at all times of the day and night. I am often "called" out of bed at three or four o'clock in the morning, not knowing exactly what I am going to write. I usually write when I am confused or upset about something. Journaling is my way of working out problems or just ranting and raving and getting out the craziness that sometimes swirls in my head.
Some mothers who keep journals write letters to their children every year on their birthdays, keeping these books as future graduation or wedding gifts. Other people journal after they meditate, recording visions and insights they received in the process.
Only you will know what feels right to you — and what feels right today could shift as you change and grow. So stay flexible in your journaling practice and let it develop naturally.
When do you see yourself journaling?
How Often Should I Journal?
Some journaling books suggest that you sign a contract with yourself, making a commitment to journal every day for thirty days. This is not one of those books. Why? Because I signed the contracts, made the commitments, and then beat myself up when I missed a day or failed to do it perfectly. I don't want you to go through that.
Most people assume that — because my passion is journaling and I've started a journalution — I must journal every single day, maybe several times a day. Wrong! When I am journaling at three or four o'clock in the morning, it's because I'm working something out. I am confused or upset, or I am very excited about something, and writing about it will let me go back to sleep. Then, days or weeks or even a month might go by before I pick up my journal. Part of the fun is looking at the last few entries to see what was going through my mind during my last session. It's amazing how quickly we forget the details of our lives, how much we obsess over things that will be forgotten in moments.
Think of your journal as a supportive, forgiving friend who is always there for you. Go to your journal for answers or when you need to confide in a friend. Your journal will listen to your problems and help you work them out. You can call on her every day for six months while you are recovering from chemo or after your husband leaves you; she'll be there, ready and eager to listen. Then when you start dating that guy from yoga class, you can ignore her for weeks and she won't get mad. Your journal is there for you when you need it, no matter what. No judgment. No rules. Just write!
Prompts are the magic launching pad that will get you writing and quiet your inner critic. A prompt can be anything — a word, a thought, or a phrase — that encourages you to begin journaling. It's an idea, a place to start, or a jumping-off point. If you've never used journaling prompts, you are going to love them. They are completely flexible and endlessly abundant.
In this book, the prompts will be highlighted by the words "Try This." For each prompt, I will give a detailed explanation and visualization. You can also make up your own prompts, using just a word or phrase to launch your journaling. Have a journaling party and ask everyone to write down a prompt and throw it into a bowl; then take turns drawing a prompt and having everyone write from it for ten minutes. (See Journalution Group Guidelines on page 183 for more ideas.)
Ten minutes is only a suggested amount of writing time. Don't feel restricted by it. If you only have five minutes — or even one minute — that's okay, too. For that matter, if you have more than ten minutes, let yourself go; don't stop writing just because the timer went off!
Where Do I Begin?
Many people tell me they would love to keep a journal, but they just don't know how to begin. Relax! You don't have to start at the beginning and tell your life story. The first words in your journal don't have to rival "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Just begin where you are.
Here is a description of the first page from one of my journals:
There is a pencil drawing of what I saw while lying in a hammock with my six-year-old daughter. The drawing shows the tree trunk the hammock is tied to, the hammock, my feet wearing woolly socks, my legs from the thighs down, and my journal resting on my legs. I remember that it took me quite a while to draw the hammock; I studied the pattern of the rope, twisting and turning, crissing and crossing. I studied every detail of my socks and the creases in my jeans. I don't think I'm a very good artist, but this picture gives me a big smile. It immediately takes me back to that cool autumn afternoon, our family on vacation in the mountains. My husband was making a fire in the cabin and my daughter and I lazed in the hammock before dinner. What a perfectly wonderful moment, captured forever — better than a photograph to me.
On the facing page is a flower that my daughter drew. Actually, the next four pages have various doodles and drawings, and different forms of "Haley" with flowers attached to the letters. She was so excited to write in my journal, rather than hers. And now my journal has captured a six-year-old's doodle drawings, expressing who she was in that moment. Now, only five months later, her signature has changed — just like her smile, as she lost both front teeth last week — but I have that moment, in my journal and in my heart. It has been forever captured by an awkward drawing of a brief, ordinary, yet beautiful moment in time.
You don't have to wait for something big and wonderful to happen in your life in order to start writing. Just begin writing, right now.
Begin Where You Are
Begin where you are. Date your entries: day of the week, month, year, and time. Describe where you are physically as you begin this journal. Look around and notice your surroundings; write down what you see. How old are you? Married, single, children, job? Give all the specifics. Then describe how you are feeling. How is your life going? What are the things you love about your life right now? What are some things you want to improve or change? Do you have any unresolved emotional issues that you need to explore? Write it all down. Write down a few dreams you have for yourself. Talk about any fears that come to mind. Let yourself write, uncensored, for at least five to ten minutes.
Excerpted from Journalution by Sandy Grason. Copyright © 2005 Sandy Grason. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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