Today, I taught “Journaling for Deeper Awareness” a three hour introduction to creative journaling that explores new approaches to putting thoughts on a page to gain personal insight. I always have between 12 and 20 people in attendance and I offer the course about 7 times a year, so if you add up the people who have sat through my lecture, I’ve lead hundreds of people to the altar of journaling Many people tell me that once we turn on the writing faucet through this inspirational process, they simply can’t turn it off, and the words gush from them for months revealing all kinds of insight and healing. I’m told this course is one of my most powerful teaching endeavors because the way I introduce the subject – not as a series of exercises, but focusing on the theory behind the process – really changes lives.
“All those emotions and all that history require space to percolate. . . . better out than in”, I always say.
Today a gentleman in the class said that he wasn’t sure whether or not my exercises and the material I presented was going to help him in any way, but hearing the stories of my past (which I tell with sincerity and lots of humor) has deeply affected him. He said, “I can’t tell you how much listening to your talk has helped me. I thought my divorce was the worst ever, but hearing you tell about your experiences makes me feel better somehow. There is something profoundly settling about knowing someone else has had a similar, or worse, experience. ”
I wasn’t sure if the idea that my troubling life experiences makes someone else’s life seem less horrible by comparison is something to be proud of, but the idea that one person feels I’ve helped them “hugely” has to be a good thing, right? And I always tell students about my negative experiences as an example of how to turn life’s upheaval around and find emotional balance and forgiveness through writing. So there is a positive curve to my stories in the end because the overriding theme is how writing saw me through darker times.
Recently, I was asked to be a contributor to the Sivana blog (an international yoga company that prides themselves on sharing eastern wisdom with western thinking customers), and I chose to write about journaling to clear your chakras (seemed an appropriate subject for that specific audience.) Mostly, I took a few of my favored exercises and turned them on edge to address the issue of blocked energies when the chakras are viewed as the 7 basic human rights. A few people who read the blog have written me with positive feedback. That was nice. (You can check it out here:
I loved that being a guest blogger enabled me to extend my reach to share this process with others, and I found it interesting that the basic concepts of writing, be it journaling, blogging, letters or formal essays, can be used for healing no mater what angle you approach it from. Writing works – as a yogi, an artist, a writer, or every day person who simply wants to try something new for the fun of it.
I believe in what I am teaching, because the act of putting pen to paper has been the most valuable thing I’ve ever done to understand my place and purpose on earth and to work out the chaos of events that has at times left me feeling deplete of love, respect, appreciation or just tied in knots . Writing has shed perspective on my relationships, my history, my energies, my self-perception, my behaviors and my hopes for the future. I’ve been blogging for well over ten years, and thousands of individuals have read my posts. I always marvel when I look at statistics –not just friends, but strangers read my work and that realization impresses upon me that I must be responsible to the words I scatter. If someone will devote minutes of their life to reading a post – the least you can do it make it worthy of their precious time.
When I became single again after years of being married , I was ridiculed for my writing by a few people who consider themselves to be spiritually evolved, yet who felt they were now my nemesis’-a position which entitled them to attack me. The letter included no message beyond personal insults, so it served no purpose except as a contrived vehicle to hurt me. In a carefully worded e-mail I was told I have no soul, that I am a bad writer and that I will never have anything published – and that my years of steady blogging was a sign of my overblown ego, because no one cares what I think. The letter went on to attack my looks, my lack of talent, and my sexuality, as well as proclaiming that my children, my students, my parents, my ex, and friends, (if they were all honest) would have to admit they have all always hated me. Apparently, I’m clueless about how truly disliked I am and everyone else is in on the fact.
Lots of cruel things were said, but the comment about my writing was the only thing that stayed with me. That letter was a perfect example of how people who consider themselves soulful can so easily dismiss and belittle the spiritual journey of others. People who, by all accounts, should respect and care for you are often the first to attack your process if they want to silence you and/or rob you of your right to figure out who you are and what you believe rather than accepting that you may have feelings other than what they want to program into you .
I kept that letter for prosperity, and when I teach writing, I use that message as an example of how outsiders will judge and try to interrupt your right to explore you heart with writing by criticizing or making you feel ashamed for expressing your honest feelings. I want people to know that you don’t need permission or anyone’s blessing to research your heart and mind by writing, and no one can take this inward journey away from you by claiming you need measurable results (like being published) to validate your time spent writing. There is a book called “The Artist’s Way” that deals exactly with this issue, how people silence artists through attempts to shame them or point out that their talent is lacking (when talent is not something that can be measured or found lacking when it comes to personal expression). I recommend this book at every writing class I teach. (Funny thing -the person who instigated that letter to me has proclaimed that book to be their favorite for many years – kinda funny to think they value the message in regards to their artistic freedom, yet don’t feel the same respect should be afforded others.)
Anyway, I have long been a writer. I layer words in private journals. I blog, I write formal books. I’ve won writing contests. I’ve written garbage. Lots. And I have to say, I’m proud of it all. Every word I’ve ever written has been part of this amazing journey to explore life and how I feel about it. Some of my words are lyrical and hit the mark. Others flounder and are sentimental and stupid. But I see every effort to come to the page as an act towards self-knowing. I wish for everyone in the world to have the gift of insight that comes with asking yourself questions and finding the answers through writing. I feel privileged that I can share what I know and believe about this process with others. Mostly, I’m proud that time, perceived success (or lack thereof), and other circumstances have never silenced me or made me second guess the rich value in writing. That is the message I want to share most with my students and the world at large. Write. It is not about what you actually produce, but what you learn by shuffling about words and letting them fall, uncensored, on the page.