I have lost count of how many I’ve had at this stage. A least 100, maybe more. Some are torn and tattered, some with lines. You see, since I’ve been 11 years old I have been keeping a journal. It is my constant companion, my guide and one of the best friends I’ve had. I bring one with me pretty much every where I go and when I don’t carry it I feel I am missing something.
Recently I started looking at journals from a few years back, and I could see the same themes that are visible in my work now, re-emerged. There is a quote from Rumi which I love; The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens’.
Journalling is way for us to see our own future. It is the ground of imaginal space, where we can dream and vision and explore the possibility of the possible. As a personal development tool it has been imperative, and more and more as a business planning tool it has invaluable. Just a few years ago, for instance, I mapped out the idea for Thrive School, but I did not really realise what it was then. I wasn’t ready to see it, but it was ready to seed. Looking through my journal now, I can see it there. Over the few years it had been given room and space, and so when I was ready, much of the conceptual foundation work had been laid, and the seed was ready to germinate.
Over the years my journal has offered me space to loose myself and find myself again. It acts as a witness, a mentor and a host to my inner world and realms. It is a private and sacred sanctuary, an incubation space and a punch bag. There are no rules as to what goes in or what stays out.
At 11 my journal was all about frilly things and the inklings of boys, my teen diaries have pages ripped out of them and some are full of scribbles and tip-ex. I’ve travel logs going back to my first big journeys, written on trains in Russia, boats in Tonga, and back of pick up trucks in Zambia. Page by page I can track my evolution, the error of my ways and insights along the way. With time, I can see patterns emerging, clusters of ideas and the seeds of projects which later fell or flowered. In particular I can see just how important giving space to ideas is.
On the blank page an idea has room just to be. It can be given the opportunity to be thought about, explored and questioned, without judgement or criticism. It is given a life out of the mind and onto the page. There it may need to sit for a while, to incubate, or fade.
I have no expectations of need my journal to look at certain way- only that I love blank pages and work with a nice pen. My preference for the last few years has been blank, soft-backed large Moleskins. I love the texture of their covers and the weight of their pages. The soft cream coloured pages also helps so take a glare off a blank page
My journal is not a day to day account of what I do. Rather it is a place to capture notes, thougths, feelings and suggestions. I write about my dreams. I transcribe quotes or poems which catch my eye. I track learning goals. I jot down things that are bothering me. When a chunk of time goes by that I am not showing up to the pages, I know something is astray. Getting back to the page inevitably brings me back to myself.
So, if you are interested in starting, or continuing your own journalling practice, here are a few tips and suggestions:
Handwrite your journal. I highly recommend handwriting your journal and not working on a computer or screen to type your journal. Writing is a way of physically expressing your inner process and thoughts. The weight of the pen on the page, the way your letters form, the speed with which you write, the variety and shape and sizes of you own lettering all has information for you about your inner process and ideas. I find it much easier to link and connect thoughts and solutions when on paper than on a screen.
Keep your to-do list in a separate journal/ notebook. I’ve always separated out my to-do list. My journal is for reflection and long form ideas, while my to-do list is operational. If I use my journal for task lists, it become more of a ‘work’ place rather than a retreat space. Have a separate task list helps to protect the power of the journalling process.
Invest in notebooks that you really really really love, and pens to go with them. Think of your journal as a luxiourious study or private library space. It’s sacred ground.
Get in the habit of carrying it with you every where you go. This means you will need a cover and a spine that is durable enough to travel with you.
Take yourself on journalling dates. One of my favourite things is to head off to a cafe with my journal and spend some quality time together. Ideally I don’t have other technology on the go at the same time as this is just a distraction.
Don’t know where to start? Here are a few starter questions/ prompts which help to get the journalling process going.
Describe your current location.
What is the light like?
What colours are you noticing?
What sounds are you hearing…
And once you get writing you can dive a little deeper…
What’s on my mind?
How am I feeling right now?
What am I thinking about?
How goes life? And love? And flow?
What do I need to hear right now?
How can it be better than this?
I am grateful for?
Every few months look back on your journal and ask yourself what patterns are emerging? What themes are you noticing? Where are you stuck or entrenched? What problems do you continue to encounter? Noticing these patterns is the first stage to solving the problem or issue you may be facing.
When you are feeling stuck, ask yourself questions ‘What next questions’ and write an intuitive response. ‘What should my next move be? Who should I ask? Where should I go next? Our bodies and beings often already know what we need and the journalling process is a way of listening, capturing and then responding to this inner knowing. Often this process can reveal a deeper or hidden wisdom within you. I call this a ‘dialogue with my soul’. As you are answering, try not to censor what comes- just write for a few minutes of free flow form. Be open to seeing what happens and what answers emerge.
Keep your journals in a safe space. Gather your journals in a box or a shelf in your bedroom. Wherever you choose, be sure it is somewhere you feel is a space place, away from guests, family members or colleagues. Knowing they will be kept in a secure place will help you express yourself more openly and freely when it comes to facing the blank page…
Don’t worry about what your journal should look like, whether messy or pretty, whether there are spelling or grammar errors – just write. Scribble, doodle, cross things out, link things together. Your journal is just for you. Remember there are no rules.
Happy journalling… may it be the flame to your most exquisite relationship with you and your ideas.