The Art of Journaling

To write or not to write… or draw, collage, paint, doodle, dot point or photograph. 

Over the years of being mentored I’ve always been asked if I keep a journal. And now, I ask the same question of my clients.
Do you keep a journal?
Responses range from; “Nah”, “Never”, “Did years ago”, “Started lots but…”, through to “Absolutely love it and never miss a day”. So, for lovers and dodgers alike read on to find out how this time honoured technique can be of benefit to you and explore some of the blockers that may hinder you.

Social Media -Tells our Story

I’ve noticed with the onset of social media people love to write, video, photograph and record with fabulous flair their everyday life moments. From the sublime to the ridiculous, banal to brilliant, people from all corners of the world are recording their activities for posterity and whoever wants to click ‘like’ or ‘love’.

So, when I ask clients, if they journal, perhaps now I need to ask a more relevant question: Do you consistently post on; FB, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat or any other platform I have not yet encountered (cause I’m not in the right age bracket)?

I am not trying to lower the tone of journaling here at all by linking it to our social media interactions. But social media reveals more of us are keeping written, oral, visual and creative records of daily life, including interests, ideas, questions and issues. With this activity in mind, the step towards journaling can be a smaller one than many of us imagine.

Perhaps we need to consider how to utilise the skills we apply to social media to the ancient and reflective art of journaling.

The ‘Big, Blank, White’ Fear

I remember a conversation some years ago with a friend of mine who is a brilliant landscape artist about what happened for him whenever he started a new work. He spoke of feeling daunted at first by the large, blank, white canvas in front of him, never quite sure if he would yet again be able to capture the beauty of the New Zealand landscapes he delighted in.

I marvelled that with his amazing body of work he still felt the same when standing in front of the next big blank canvas.

Journaling can often be stalled by the ‘blank white page’ moments of uncertainty; what to write, will it work for me, why bother, who will read it and what will they make of all the junk in my mind?

Perhaps we need to approach journaling with a bit more curiosity and playfulness. This will give us the room we need to mentally switch on the light and find out what we have hidden in the recesses of our minds.

Not sure you want to find what’s lurking there?

You may surprise yourself in your discoveries and yes, if you are willing to explore the questions, contradictions and patterns of your life, you will come across new things to appreciate and challenge within yourself. That is one of the amazing things about journaling; making it worth the time and consistent effort it takes beyond the first few pages. Keep turning the pages of a journal to write in a regular sustainable rhythm until it becomes part of the expressive and explorative fabric underpinning your life. Keep writing until you break through your own masks, walls, indifference, fear and finally find you. I don’t want to sound like a ‘shampoo advert’ here but ‘You are worth it!’

It all sounds mystical and mysterious, but it’s really not at all. It is a simple reflective repetitive tool of trade for any of us who desire to learn to listen well to ourselves, each other and to God.

The wonderful thing about journaling is that it is private, personal and has no limits to creative capacity. No one can click like or love, no fear need hold you back. You can’t fail at this!

As part of a therapy process it is an invaluable mirror for a client to reflect on sessions, skills and next steps.

But for anyone who wants to pivot on the growing edge of life becoming more compassionate, confident and courageous, then journaling is a no brainer. Build the habit into your life, but don’t become ‘religious’ about it. Keep it fresh, playful, honest and be curious about who you are, what questions are forming, what challenges you face, what hopes, dreams and darn good ideas are floating loose in that ‘fearfully and wonderfully designed’ brain of yours.

Go on, give it a go.

Contact us at C-Change and I’ll email a helpful handout of ideas, questions and suggestions to get you going and keep you going on the adventure of journaling. If you have any suggestions, please share them with us so we can pass them on.

A Peaceful Day

In the midst of packing, moving house and preparing to leave our wonderful home state of Tasmania (yet again), I created some precious moments of pause in the day. Yes, pausing in the midst of the adrenaline-fueled craziness that flurries around to distract me from noticing the beauty of simple moments.

We’ve moved this week into a friend’s home that has a wide open northerly outlook facing Table Cape, Bass Strait and a big sky. I’ve been drawn to stand and look out the large windows as huge clouds passed slowly overhead throughout the day.

Oh, this day has included its fair share of tasks; sorting, communicating, cooking (lamb shanks in a slow cooker simmering) and planning for our next adventure across to the mainland. But there have also been pauses, still moments of watching in awe at the beauty in dark clouds scudding by, threatening rain, patches of blue sky and amazing hues and shapes.

I’ve been experimenting with an app by John Eldridge called ‘Pause’. I love the notion of mindfulness and have finally given it some attention by means of a phone app that reminds me to slowly breathe, let go the tyranny of the urgent and enjoy some moments of stillness. It’s all part of this journey, this new intentional journey of going deeper into truth, meaning and purpose.

It has taken some stepping out of ‘liking the idea’ (but not doing it) or waiting for the ‘right time’ (never turns up TBH), into some practical shifts in how I use my time. So here in the busyness of our current circumstances, I’ve downloaded the app and am honestly enjoying the blessing of pausing to intentionally cease for a few minutes to breathe, notice and savour being. Just being.

Deeper Listening – Recognising the Contradictions

I grow weary of the contradictions in my being. I really do. I am shooting for gentle, patient, kind, considerate, measured – serene may be a stretch. But often there is the ugly, niggly, uptight, stressed, antsy, self-righteous me which is hard to hide from those who love me most, or those who are in proximity to me for any length of time. Poor souls.

Our son and his partner rang the other day and he immediately picked up on my mood. “Mum, are you tired, or something?”, he asked. OK, can’t hide it. Yep, struggling today. Love it and hate it when those who know me best can so easily spot what I’m working so hard to hide from myself.

I appreciate that about my sons and husband, they know me well and they are gentle and honest in turn. The recognition of my mood helped me own it and toss it.  Yes, toss it! In the moments of clarity that followed kind exposure, I was given the ‘mirroring awareness’ I needed to help me choose a different response to what was getting under my skin that day.

Ok, being human is messy. But for any who are recovering perfectionists, you will know how difficult it is to deal with anything messy. Particularly responses to situations we cannot control, or situations we think we are good at, but stuff up in ways that leave us confused and confounded. Either way, I so weary of the tension that surprisingly springs up in ordinary moments on any given day.

I’m up for learning, growing and being transformed. What I am not up for, with any genuine enthusiasm, is the means and methods life uses to teach me how to grow and be transformed. It is humbling, painful and so not a perfectly smooth learning curve. I find it is more a crazy stumbling uncoordinated dance, where I’m flying solo in my foolish, “I must do it by myself’ style.

And this is where the deeper listening comes in. I want to accept the Father’s outstretched hand and dance in a duet with him. I want to forget my awkwardness and uncertainty and look up into His eyes, not down at my feet. I want to sense the rhythm of the beat through my connection to Him. I want to be willing to be led, to be guided, to surrender my need to control, to pretend, to perform. I want to be absorbed in the moment and movement of the dance with my heavenly Father.

Trusting that He knows me and is honourable, I know He will be gentle and honest in turn. Showing me step by step how to hear, to follow, to allow Him to lead me in the dance of deeper listening.

I’ll let you know what serenity feels like as this journey of learning progresses. I’ll be playing more music, walking along more beaches and mountain trails, reading more, watching less TV, listening to stories and sitting in silence savouring the moments.

It’s time to grow, again. Let the dance begin.

Fake it till you make it – or till they find out!

I genuinely couldn’t work out why or how I landed the job as a Principal of a school many years ago. I felt apologetic and embarrassed when asked what I did. I called myself a ‘small p principal’ just filling in until ‘they’ (always hard to nail who ‘they’ ever was) would realise their mistake in giving me such an opportunity. replacing me with a real Principal who would do the job so much better than I ever could.

It was not the first time I’d felt this way about myself. In so many arenas of life I perceived myself as a ‘wanna be’, never the ‘real deal’; always fearing people’s closer inspection and inevitable disappointment when ‘they’ realised, I wasn’t what ‘they’ expected. This led to an unconscious strategy come pattern of self-sabotage by withdrawing before something even got off the ground such as a friendship, further study, a new venture, a job opportunity, or any risky undertaking where I might be exposed and found wanting. It also led to a pattern of cutting and running when people got too close, or challenges mounted in a situation I would perceive as potentially unmasking my outer layer of well-constructed but fake confidence and capability.

I’ve lived with a constant undercurrent of anxiety in all facets of life. As a wife, mum, daughter, sister, friend, student, employee and so on. I’ve always felt lacking, never enough, not quite the real deal.

I’ve described it as having one foot facing in and one foot facing out of most of my life; poised, alert, ready to run for fear of being unmasked, judged and rejected. I’ve lived with a restlessness, a wariness and weariness, always on guard, anticipating, pre-empting and proving over and over that I truly am not enough.

Some years ago, while in the midst of ‘sweating all the small stuff’ in my role as the self-titled ‘small p principal‘ in a school community, I participated in a 3-year training in the Enneagram. I experienced quite a few ‘ahhah’ moments in the quiet of the nunnery where the gifted gentle trainers taught us through reflection, meditation, oral story-telling and solitude how to recognise and hold for the first time, our true self, our wounded self, our image of God self.  I recognised the Perfectionist; the good girl who strove to measure up, meet expectations yet always seemed to miss the mark. There is much more I could say and for anyone who knows and has worked with the Enneagram, you would agree it is one of the most intimate, wholistic and helpful journeys of self-discovery.

During this time, I was finally given the skill and the courage to come face to face with my ‘inner critic’. I had been introduced to him during a prayer retreat some time ago and I’d dubbed him ‘the crow’.  I recognised him as the cawing strident ugly voice who constantly criticised, condemned, compared and crushed me. Yet seemingly he also protected me, prompted me, proved reality and truth about myself and my capacity in every situation.

He came out from the dark shadowy recesses of my mind and was exposed through the course of the sessions. I wondered why God had waited over half my lifetime to expose this nemesis hidden in my mind. He had done so much damage.

But now was the time to begin the journey, the painful hopeful letting go of this friend/foe.

It has and continues to be the ‘thorn in my side’ work for me.  God has been at work patiently teaching me to daily listen for the Shepherd, to recognise, trust and obey His voice in my life. A voice of ‘perfect love that casts out fear’ every day, every day.  As I write this blog, with niggling fear, because the ‘inner critic’ condemns every sentence, every phrase and even now wants me to hit delete, I know I am not alone in this journey of ‘unworthiness’ of which ‘imposter syndrome’ is a symptom.

Freedom, love, joy, peace and abundance have for many years been elusive. I haven’t deserved them, my ‘crow’ would say, as he reminds me of all my flaws and failings.

A friend once said in response to my ‘crow induced’ self-pity and habitual moaning about not being good enough, “Of course, Di, of course you aren’t enough, nor are you worthy. That’s the whole point of the gospel. That’s what God has been saying since the beginning. We as human beings are not able to live perfect lives, please everyone, measure up, be all that every situation requires. God knows this and gave us His son Jesus to set us free, to live an abundant life now and a life with Him in eternity. It’s nothing you can earn, nothing you need to fix or do. It’s God. It’s all Him.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I knew this. I knew this. But in that moment, my head and heart fully embraced the truth and as for ‘the crow’, well, his voice has for the most part, despite minor skirmishes from time to time, dulled, loosing his claws of control and his harsh pecking of power to steer my course.

I’m learning, still very slowly and haltingly, to enjoy being loved, appreciated, thanked, praised and equally misunderstood, criticised, judged and rejected. It’s all still happening, but how I respond is gradually shifting. I’m still hesitant around risks as I perceive them, still anxious first. But I do enjoy choosing to have a go, make mistakes, develop curiosity, wonder, awe and delight in the myriad moments of ordinary life.

I seriously could write a book. (Back off inner crow! – I could!) There’s so much to be gleaned from honest and open reflection as I have come to understand in the years of living that many of us crazy making humans are blighted/gifted with the ‘inner critic’. One thing I do understand is that this voice has given me an equal and opposite desire and hunger to hear God’s voice, to pursue a faith journey, to long for a fulfilling and satisfying life that I genuinely enjoy in all it’s imperfection.

I’m a teacher, a counsellor (a listener), a writer, a friend, a wife, a mother, a woman of God and most of all I am loved, cherished and treasured. I’m OK.

People Travel

People travel to wonder at the height of mountains,         

At the huge waves of the sea,

At the long courses of rivers,

At the circular motion of the stars,

And they pass themselves by without wondering.

St Augustine

I had a student desk in my childhood bedroom with a huge map of the world on its surface. I would spend hours looking at the many exotic and mysterious names of countries near and far wondering what life is like for people who live in such amazing places.

I imagined life would be so different for other people and enjoyed picturing myself visiting tropical islands in the Pacific or treking through deep jungles and sandy deserts in Africa.

The travel bug hits so many of us early in life and while I’ve enjoyed some adventures and explorations in other countries it was while actually living in another country that I came to see how much we all have in common as human beings. I spent time being a mum with other mothers, being a friend, being a co-worker with people from all over the world. I learnt so much about myself along the way as I observed, listened and absorbed the stories of others.

I wonder if the way we westerners tend to ‘do travel’ actually changes us, or do we merely stay in our protective bubble passing through other cultures and places relatively untouched. We rarely stay long enough to form connections, create meaning and be genuinely impacted by the beauty of listening to and learning from other people. Our style of travel is a whirlwind, whistlestop, leap out for the quick photo op and hastily jump back on board for the next highlight.

In effect I believe how we travel is, for the most part, is also how we tend to do life. And that’s what the quote is all about.

It takes an intentional pause, a mindful noticing, an honest and open questioning, a moment of vulnerability to form meaningful connection with others. Only then, do we discover something about ourselves, something of our shared multi-faceted humanity.

Enjoy your travels, local and overseas when the time allows. Take time in the busy jam packed itinerary to occasionally pause and listen for the questions that will come to expand your awareness of yourself and others.

We are all in this together.


    Transformed Thinking

    Love hopes and believes the best.

    What we listen to affects

    how we connect and relate

    to ourselves and others.

    We listen to lies about our self

    Formed from frail humanity.

    Freedom comes when we

    Forgive, turn, face the Son

    Leaving the past in the past!

    We listen to lies about others;

    Framed pictures of painful betrayals.

    Freedom comes when fears

    Are faced and we take heart

    Finding both hope and healing.

    For we finally understand,

    We all listen to the same lies

    And all will be healed

    By the same truth.

    “Father forgive them,

    They do not know what they do.”

    They live with lies, shaping a reality

    Giving brittle illusions of power,

    Control, protection, connection.

    We reject what we most fear.

    Therefore, we first reject ourselves.

    The pain of deep disconnection

    More than any can bear.

    We become a city divided,

    Defeated, destroyed.

    The gate is unhinged,

    Open and torn

    As we, with broken hearts,

    Hide in a corner dark and small

    Afraid to step forward

    To claim what is ours,

    Our birthright

    As sons and daughters of the King.

    We are never alone, not ever!

    What a comfort He brings

    The great “I am,”

    The Lover of my soul.

    It’s no longer I that live,

    but Christ that lives in me!

    He died to set me free!

    Di Priest ©C-Change 2007