Sunday, September 23, 2012

Journal writing tips

Flipping through my files to find the Benefits of Journaling for a talk I'm giving Wednesday on Navigating the Mid-Life Transition, at the Pointe Claire Library I found these tips I use in my writing classes:

Pick a time and place: Find a Quiet Place to do Daily Journaling
Write at home or somewhere else, as long as it is comfortable, with space for privacy and time without interruption. Find a time that works for you – first thing in the morning is often easiest, before the day gets too busy. Or just before bedtime. There is no ‘right time’ except the one that fits your schedule. If we don’t claim this time, it won’t happen.  A few guidelines I found in Janet Conner's wonderful book  Writing down your soul, Janet Conner website :  Show Up, Open Up, Listen up and Follow Up.  

Start Each Journal Entry With a Date
This will make a difference, especially if you go back and read them later. Dates help pinpoint events.

Write one Word or One Line
Write one word that describes your day. Write one line that sums up something that happened. Write about how you feel today, what your body is feeling. Describe the view from your window. Or the bird that just hopped into view.  I dare you to write just one line.

Let it Go
No need to censor yourself; put the editor on the back burner. Write as it comes, without correcting grammar or punctuation. Look for the free flow, and use a timer for five minutes or ten minutes and keep your hand moving on the page even if you think you have nothing to say. (A little trick I learned from Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Be as Creative as Possible and Take Risks
Remember that nothing in this journal needs to be "finished" or complete. You can jot down drawing ideas, compositions, bits of dialogue, a story plot, a poem or quotes you love. The idea is to get the juices flowing!  There is no censor, no rules, no worries about grammar, and we write quickly so the editor doesn’t chime in.

Write what you’re afraid to say, write the taboos and silences that don’t get spoken. Write what your heart really aches to say to someone but can’t. Write like there’s nobody watching. Tell the inner critic to take a break for five.

Let your Journal be the launch pad
Use coloured pencils to draw in symbols and images. Add colour to express your feelings. Let your dreams come into your journal. Keep it beside your bed so you can write them down before they disappear (sometimes you’ll remember them if you get up to go pee in the middle of the night, keep a pen handy). Paste things in your journal, pictures you cut out of magazines, photos, stickers, piece of textile you love the feel of, things you love.

Visit Planet Sark to see examples of zany playful creativity and journaling.

Journal writing can help you to:

Learn to pay attention to the ordinary details of your life, observing & collecting beauty.
Gain perspective on where you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going
Develop a stronger sense of who you are, what matters and counts
Become your own best friend: cultivate loving kindness for yourself.
Listen in to your women’s wisdom or Intuition, and dialogue with the inner voice.

NOTE: If you are worried about someone reading your journal, find a way to lock up your journal, put it in the glove compartment of your car, write at a library, shred the pages you are worried about; make it safe and private. 

Happy Writing

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Let your heart be drawn by what feeds it

These days, I'm writing but not writing. Blogging, journaling, writing essays, lectures, sometimes lists, keeping a daily agenda filled with notes of things to do, but lately no poems, no spontaneous bursts of creativity. Sigh. My heart is not in it, I guess.

I found a great quote on Facebook, (where I often steal quotes in beautifully photographed frames). This one has no picture around it, but just says what I feel in my heart these days:

It's not about figuring out what Big Thing you are here to do. It's about recognizing what is life-giving and turning your face in that direction. It's about letting yourself be drawn by that which feeds your heart and soul, about being present enough to turn away from that which has no life for you to turn toward that which makes you open and open and open, like a blossom reaching toward the sun, rooted in the earth.

I'm not sure what the Big Thing is anymore. It appears to have escaped me once again. But I just spent five days and more on retreat, listening to that which feeds my soul, and now that I am back home, I feel slightly different. It's not that I am not promoting my book, arranging speaking engagements, setting up classes to begin next week, but in my heart, I am happy to sit in silence for a wee bit longer, filling up the well.  I stand at the washing machine and separate the white from the coloured piles, get through the suitcases of laundry, but still my heart is remembering how full it feels. I don't appear to need to write about it.

My normal habit of doing three things at once is still on automatic, but I find myself stopping in the middle of pouring leeks, potatoes and broth into the blender to just savour the moment, take a breath and feel my feet on the ground. I look out the window at the loud wind blowing through the tall grasses and the oak tree, the sumac bending over double, and I feel calm, not anxious.

So may be I am feeling a tiny bit more present, more open to turning towards that which opens me up inside, like a sunflower turning towards the sun, but still rooted - as I am rooted in the everyday actions of cooking, cleaning, typing, doing laundry. I spent a number of days listening to Prem Rawat, a teacher of mine for almost forty years, speak in sometimes humourous sometimes deep and serious tones, about my connection to the Divine, and how important it is to feel it, and how easy to let go to it.

I don't feel like I need to tell you everything he said, I just feel in awe of the transformation that has come over me. A little disconcerting at moments, when I relish just sitting in the silence and letting the tender ecstasy take over. There is still a small part of me that resists, but it is getting smaller, being washed away by the love within, the strong pull of the human heart wishing, no, longing for connection.

So there, I've said it, I am turning away from flogging my 'products' and turning towards writing about the heart's need for connection and love. It seems very unworldly of me, almost naive in a childlike way. But there it is, the need for more admiration of existence, the need for something greater to fill my sails from within, the need to turn away from chasing fame, success, and glory, and just be, who I am. That is the shortest complete sentence in the English language by the way, and it's written on a cap I brought back from Amaroo - I am.

Thanks be, I am.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Yes, You Are a Teacher | Crazy Sexy Life

if you have ever wanted to teach but doubted your ability, your credentials, your sincerity,
read this by Jennifer Louden.

Yes, You Are a Teacher | Crazy Sexy Life


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Listening for my own Wisdom

Phew! After a very tumultuous summer, the house is empty, kids at university. Now for some quiet down time, some alone time with my journal for more than ten minutes. Listening for my own Wisdom.

As a workshop and retreat leader, I often have to come up with something new to present, a new title or descriptions of my classes (or rewriting my website, which I'm doing today).  It leaves me a little perplexed really. I feel humbled by the fact that I really  have nothing to teach except what I am learning very viscerally, in this human earth school.  What I learn over and over again is how important it is to find the still small center of me to hold on to, in all the busy, dizzy, turbulent, whipped around until your head spins world of daily activity. A place to stop, and ground myself by breathing. Or by taking a walk in grassy fields and wooded forests. Or soaking in a hot tub while listening to the red winged blackbirds.

But really, of all the ways that I practice finding my center, either through daily meditation, weekly yoga, tai chi or dancing in circles, the one that gives me solace every time is my silver mirror: my journal. It's my link to my guidance within, and it helps me develop my inner wisdom.

How does it do that? I'm not sure - I've read many books on journal writing, and visited umpteen blogs by authors  - really, though, the simple truth is that I sit down with a quandry, or a question, or a slight feeling of unease, or a desire to praise the day, and I confide in myself. I open a doorway to another part of me, call it a higher self, and I communicate with it. I ask a question, using a similar method as Writing down your soul author Janet Conner suggests (, and often by the time I get to the bottom of the page I have an answer or at least I feel more at peace with myself for having expressed my feelings. Is it angels answering me? some would say that. I prefer to think of it as listening to my inner wisdom, whatever the source.

Of course, sometimes I use my journal to jot down lists of things to do, or funny things my kids said, or write drafts of articles for the blog, but mostly it's my Inner Wisdom that I want to access. I like to use creative visualization to imagine meeting my Wise Inner Self, and that helps me get in touch with a wiser, seemingly older Self who often gives me good counsel. If you imagined yourself at 80 years old, talking to your forty-something self, you might discover your inner wisdom close at hand. That's the kind of exercise I love to do in my classes and retreats. You'd be surprised at how wise you already are, if you just take the time to consult your wisdom.