Well, the Clay Molding & Journaling Retreat went well; I’m holding another one on Oct. 15. The others were a bust.
What kinds of retreats and workshops have you been at and felt really good about them? And did you think you got what you paid for?
I’m taking a survey. Thanks.
I’m in full planning mode for our first “clay and spiritual journaling” retreat here in Cornelius, NC. More things to think of, especially when you have an associate doing part of the program. Go to http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=4vsoyteab&oeidk=a07e4j96gcm17b99750 to see the event description. The potter, Roger Strom, and I have done one before for a Spiritual Directors Organization but this will be the first public offering. Looking forward to people registering and coming. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I just received a gardening catalog that has many varieties of “grow bags” advertised in it. They are made of patented fabric in three colors that breathe to reduce heat build-up. You can just grow your tomatoes or peppers, or garlic or potatoes or whatever in its specially-sized bag filled with “Energized Potting Mix” and sitting in a self-watering tray. You can have read tomatoes growing in a blue bag or blue tomatoes …
It made me think about when we humans became an agrarian people, i.e. Anasazi, they grew their crops in the ground and cultivated them carefully. As they migrated from place to place, they created pots to carry their special plants, the medicinal herbs, and what we now call – heirloom varities. Or maybe large plants were transported in baskets with soil in them to keep the plant stock alive and producing in the new land.
Think about your journal; what do you have growing in that container? Goals, work issues, political viewpoints, stories of relationships –some strained and some pleasurable, etc. And you carry it from place to place, city to city as you write about your journey with the Higher One. What treasures have you recorded on those pages? The paper is the soil; the ink is like the water that makes the words (the seeds and plants) come alive and give their meanings to you, both emotionally and physically.
And of course, our journal is but a poor reflection of our soul; just like the grow bag gardens are but a very limited example of what Mother Nature can grow.
But, it is OUR words for the spirituality of our soul and they express our relationships with everything around us. So grow in your journal.
Where is your favorite place?
When we are in a situation that makes us feel anxious, we need to find a way to take our mind on a trip to our favorite place: a vibrant city, a lounge chair, a beautiful vista, a white sandy beach, etc.
Just one place should come instantly to mind; if not, then take out your journal now and spend 5 minutes writing about where is the place that you enjoy going to so much. Makes sure you decide upon a distinctive name for this place that you can easily remember– one only.
Now, when you know your favorite place and you need to think clearly about a confusing issue, then:
• Exhale and virtually put that troubling idea, a recurring worry, a new crisis, or even a nagging doubt into a pretend box, a safe, a file cabinet, a computer folder, etc. Store it away in the far reaches of your mind. Or even write it on a file card journal and get it out in the open for you to see. Either way works.
• Now, inhale and get some fresh air into all parts of your body so you are ready for your virtual trip to your favorite place. Remember not to pack your box for the trip.
• Take the trip and travel to your favorite place; enjoy the release of all tension in your body, from head to toes. Journal about how wonderful it is so you can read the travel-log at a later time.
• Now come back, feeling refreshed; open the box and deal calmly with the situation.
Read your journal entries when you have a new crisis and “Take a Trip Again.”
Spiritual Journaling is a broad space in the road where you can pause and record your journey toward God. But it also has a deeper dimension as a reflection of your soul. It is a time where what you are writing, even on paper napkins, connects you with God. It is a time of personal development where your concerns about life – goals, work, politics, relationships, and innermost thoughts are expressed as a pathway to receiving His grace. Spiritual Journaling allows us to ask those vulnerable questions, to remember significant events, to debate our causes of sadness and anger and above all, to express our praise and the wonder of our life.
Open the door into your heart for your passion.
Where do you get your excitement, enthusiasm, desire, zest, zeal, fervor, ardor and intensity? What sets (and keeps) you on fire, hungry, thirsty and with a continual appetite? What gives you an eagerness, determination, willingness to change and do something you dearly love to do?
Passion is a feeling, an emotion that drives you from morning to night to be the best that you can be at _____(You fill in the blank). Passion is sometimes difficult to find and maintain; we sometimes burn-out and are “adrift” in a hallway of nameless doors leading to paths we could choose to take.
How then to reconnect with your passion and discern the door to open to travel down that path of thrilling desire? James Maxwell says, “Through you cannot go back and make a brand new start my friend, anyone can start from now and make a brand new end.”
Purchase a small journal and label it “My Passion Journal.” Carry it with you all day and begin recording the meaning of your sources of inspiration and insights about your passion, before they slip away into the ether:
1. Write down what has moved you and what you have loved doing during the last period,
2. When the time period has been all nose-to-the-grindstone, visualize a flashback to an earliert time and write about memories from that passionate time.
3. Or, imagine new ways to employ your passion and meet new goals of your passion – write them down in your journal.
These three actions can be done in 5-10 minutes during your lunch period or before you commute home. As you commit to documenting your passion, it will become a habit and you will notice how people you meet express their passion.
As you discover clues in your journaling about your passion, develop a way to index them, with a title word or in separate sections of your journal. And celebrate your devotion and creativity in expressing your passion in a new and enlightening way.
Your journal is like a field where plants can grow and flourish.
Everyone’s field is different than every other. And even your field/journal is different at different times of the year: like winter when it’s bleak outside (in North America) or spring when sprouts shoot up and blooms appear, et. So your journal has different plants and crops like themes and threads, patterns and even maybe a few weeds. Especially prevalent, I’m sure, are fruits and vegetables that you can savor as you “pick-them” from a later harvesting of your writing.
Sometimes a field rests when no seed is planted; like your journal when busyness takes over or depression comes forth. Sometimes the words are like old seeds – they won’t sprout or there are plants that refuse to bloom. But every field/journal has unique soil and regular writing/watering and new seeds/prompts will renew and produce a new crop of words/plants.
Then, with daily tending/writing, the field/journal will continue working to accompany you on your journey of life, from season to season.
Good growing in your journal and in your field.
I was thinking of Tom Sawyer’s picket fence, white-washed by the boys who came by with their “treasures” that Tom talked into giving to him for the privilege of painting the fence. This is like our days, pickets (events and happenings) that we give our time and attention to, in order to get a “treasure” of some sort.
But in Tom Sawyer, we never read about the yard or whatever was behind the fence, viewable in the spaces between the pickets. This is also like our days where the moments between our pickets are the spaces of time and place that would allow us to see beyond our current location if we would just focus.
And the spaces, the moments, should be a prime concentration of our journaling. We should be capturing the glimpses of our journey that are visible in those seemingly silent and empty yet marvelous pauses in our day. To record those moments, I have begun carrying ½ file cards, 2 ½ X 3, which are great for “short takes”; I call it “micro” journaling. It’s easy to jot down the scene, the sound, the thought and the future plan in bullets and phrases. During my next regular journaling, I sometimes tape them in my journal or I copy the essence into my journal entry.
So you too can get “treasures” from the picket fence, only this time without white-washing it – the way is to harvest the spaces.
I was preparing a chart for a workshop; a chart about the benefits of journaling. I found statements that it improves cognitive functioning and strengthens the immune system but then I found something from the AMA Journal:
“Writing about stressful life events helped reduce symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis in patients with these chronic illnesses. The effects of the writing exercise were still evident four months later and resulted in clinically meaningful improvements in patient symptoms.
The new findings add to a growing body of evidence linking mental health to physical well-being. Although researchers are not sure how this technique — called “expressive writing” — can lead to improvements in health, they speculate that it may help people better cope with stress, which can take a deleterious toll on health.
On average, asthma patients who wrote about their most stressful life event showed a 19% improvement in a specific measure of lung function, while control asthma patients showed no change, the researchers report. Rheumatoid arthritis patients were found to have a 28% reduction in symptoms, whereas control arthritis patients did not improve.
Ventilation of negative emotion, even just to an unknown reader, seems to have helped these patients acknowledge, bear, and put into perspective their distress. In this and a growing number of studies, it is not simply mind over matter, but it is clear that mind matters.
The Journal of the American Medical Association April 14, 1999;281:1304-1309, 1328-1329″
Everybody tells us to relax, to chill out, to slow down, to take a load off, do deep breathing exercises, yoga, etc. but journaling is a practice that requires little extra tools that are inexpensive.
Try some during the busyness of the Holidays when there just seems to be more of more.
I’m sure we all said “Thanks” last Thursday on Thanksgiving day. But what about today or everyday? We need to refocus our attitude away from our debts, burdens, complaints and aches. We need to affirm the good things that happen to us each and every day.
You can easily incorporate a “Gratitudes” section in your daily journal writing. Some people keep a separate journal by using 1/2 of a standard 3X5 file card (available precut in multiple colored packs at office supply stores). That is an easy media to also use during the day to take a few seconds to record the gratitude afte you have received it — a “real-time” journal writing.
If you want to recall those gratitude events on your return-to-home-commute, put a sticky note on your dashboard to remind you, “What THANKS did I get today?” Then it will be easier to remember them for your nightly standard journal entry.
And as you start recording the thanks given to you, start giving some back;
- Pay It Forward
Grateful people feel better and are more resilent to tough times. Grab some of this free medicine by making your very own “Thanks-for-giving” days.