Life is an emergent flow of situations, circumstances, and events. The individual life is an utterly unique expression of the greater flow of life that surrounds us. Personal experience is a collision of variables including inheritance, cultural milieu, social status, innate abilities, personal choices, unexpected misfortune, and blind luck.
Life offers the potential for joy, happiness, wonder, belonging, and fulfillment. It also imposes difficulty, uncertainty, hardship, impermanence, and suffering. The experience of being alive is a confluence of joy and difficulty, happiness, and uncertainty, wonder and hardship, belonging and impermanence, and fulfillment and suffering. This is the wilderness we are all trying to find our way through.
To live a life worth living we must fully embrace the situations and circumstances that become our life course. We all need to learn techniques and develop tools that help us to steady ourselves when life becomes turbulent and volatile. Journaling is one tool that can help us to fully embrace positive experiences and integrate negative experiences.
My experience with journaling spans more than thirty years. My journals have been a source of insight as well as disappointment. Sometimes, I write an idea that I can carry with me into the world and realize its potential. Recently, however, I discovered vast expanses of exiled potential. While reading through past journals I was shocked by the unexplored terrain. Each “completed” journal revealed a land of forgotten memories and abandoned insight. And then the foreboding recognition of how much I have repeated myself over the years.
Can journaling become a positive force in life? Can it provide practical and observable benefits? Can it be something more than a graveyard for my past?
Journaling is a creative practice. Each journal is an environment for discovery. Every journal entry is a creative medium in which you uncover aspects of yourself and your relationship with the world around you. Journaling is the space in which you move deeper into your life and the experience of being alive. There is one skill above all others you must embrace. You must learn to inhabit your ideas and allow your words to show you the way. Words have their own energy, force, and influence.
Journaling is a break for freedom. I do not believe there is no ideal method or process to learn. There are no courses that can help you. You do not need someone else’s writing prompts. All that is required is a notebook, pen, and periods of contemplative work in which you encourage words to move from deep within your being and try to express them as clearly as you can on the page. You will write things that surprise you. You may find yourself writing things you didn’t know you knew. You may find yourself re-storying a potent memory and imbuing it with a new sense of meaning. Or the words that emerge may usher you into the day in an unexpected way. What matters most is the constant interplay between words and embodied experience.
In a deep sense, journaling is an exploration of the limitations and boundaries of human agency. Life is a constant negotiation with three levels of control. There are events, situations, and circumstances that we have no control over. There are those that we can exert partial control over and influence an outcome. The only realm we have complete control over is inner life; that is our reactions and responses to everything that happens around us. Journal writing is a conversation with our ability to shape experience.
Journaling can become a source of disappointment. It is possible to fill years of journals with words that are inert. There is a vast expanse between the intentions we write on the page and the feeling of being alive. An essential aspect of journaling is to narrow this expanse and create a sense of flow between what you write and what you do. In this sense, journaling is a lifelong conversation with your experiences.
In this series, I explore my ideas about journal writing. It originates in feelings of disappointment and the intention to make it more valuable and meaningful. I presume that words can be a positive force in life and can lead you to important discoveries. I promote creativity as a conversation with reality that uncovers something interesting that had been waiting for you all along. None of my ideas are new, nor do they need to be. All we can lay claim to in life is our experience. Expressing that experience is, I believe, why you are here.