Try This: Keep a Journal

IMG_0109Over the next few weeks, I will be introducing a series of posts called “Try This,” a collection of ideas for you to try when you’re seeking greater joy and peace in your life.  These are things that have often worked for me, and which might be of benefit to you.

I’ll begin with a practice that I began at the age of 14, and have used fairly consistently ever since:  keeping a journal.  I have used my journals for many things:  to rant about problems, to play with solutions, to capture memories, to record my journey.  There is no wrong way to keep a journal but, if you are new to the practice, here are a few ideas:

Begin where you are.  Describe where you are sitting, how you are you feeling, what’s on your mind.

If you’re upset, angry or wrestling with a problem, try this:  give yourself some time and space to really get it out.  Express your feelings, without censoring. After you’ve done that for a few minutes, switch gears.  Find something good about the person or situation, or some lesson that you’re learning.  If that doesn’t work, switch gears entirely–try writing about something else that brings you joy, such as your adorable 2-year old niece, the party you’re looking forward to, or just the way the snow looks on the mountains.

Use your journal to express gratitude.  Simply writing down a list of things that make you happy can make you feel better.

If you’re concerned about privacy, there are apps that require passwords (I like iJournal), or you can enable password protection on many word processing programs.  Or find a great hiding place!

As with any practice, experiment with different ways of doing it, and find a way that works for you.  That could be writing every morning as you sip your coffee, or once a week as a Sunday night ritual.  You may prefer a spiral notebook, a computer or a beautiful leather book (I like fairly large pages that open flat, but over the years, there’s nothing I haven’t tried).

Have you ever kept a journal?  What works for you?  If you have ideas, suggestions or questions of your own, I’d love to hear them!

Loving Now

Would you be happy?  Then love where you are now.  Not later.  Not yesterday.  Not if only something was different.  Now, as it is, in all its imperfect perfection.

Wherever you are, however you feel, there is something to love.  And when you focus on that, rather than on what you think is wrong, you allow your awareness of love and beauty to grow.

When we focus on the love and beauty that is in front of us, we stop sending our energy into the past or future.  We do our part and let the Universe do the rest.  We accept the abundance.  We get out of the way.

The future is not under our control.  But in this moment, we have a choice.  We can appreciate what is, or we can push it away.  What will you choose?

Trust love.  Know that all you have is all you need, and that if what you want does not appear, it is because something better will.  The shadows of the past and future are not real, but this moment is.  This moment is sacred.  Choose to fill it with love.

The Way

“You don’t choose a life.  You live one.”  –The Way

Every journey is a pilgrimage.  We may seek different things–love, healing, truth, knowledge of ourselves–but it is at the places where our journeys intersect that we find our answers.  No one journeys alone.

The Way, written and directed by Emilio Esteves and starring Martin Sheen, is a beautiful illustration of the soul’s pilgrimage.  It chronicles the story of a man, Tom, who decides to walk the famous Camino de Santiago, from France through Spain, in honor of his son’s desire to complete that historic journey.  Along the way, he meets fellow pilgrims in search of their own answers, their own healing, their own truth.

It is a wonderful story, and it can be viewed on more than one level.  The first is the story of a grieving man and the adventures he encounters, the people he befriends.  On another level, Tom’s companions can be seen as manifestations of his own soul, reflections of the deeper yearnings for peace we all share.  (*Warning:  I will not give away any plot details, but some of the themes discussed below may foreshadow the story.)

There are three companions.  The first is an Irishman, a writer suffering from writer’s block, seeking stories.  The second, who usually wears red, walks the Camino de Santiago to lose weight for his wife, and is described by the Irishman as one “for whom kindness is an instinct.”  The third, a woman, claims that her journey is to quit smoking, but her past is full of abuse and loss.

They are the mind, the heart and the body.  Just as Dorothy’s companions sought a mind, a heart and courage from Oz, Tom’s companions seek healing of the very same things.

The journey of the mind is always to learn to trust our creativity, and to receive permission, whether from ourselves or others, to speak the truth.

The journey of the heart is to discover that the love we long for is already within us.  We must learn to love ourselves as well as we love others.

And the journey of the body is to find the courage to heal from our past traumas and rise again.

At the center of the story is the soul.  Tom is a true pilgrim, because he does not journey for himself, but for another.  What he must learn is that all journeys are taken together.  Which is to say, that to journey for another is also to journey for oneself.

The Art Of Deciding

It’s incredible the effect that a single decision can have upon your life and your experience of it.  You don’t need to know what’s coming; trying to micro-manage your life will only lead to frustration.  But when you decide to enjoy yourself, to be kind, to be happy, you open yourself up to the likelihood of creating that experience. The best trick I’ve found is to make the decision to be happy, to have fun, to be helpful–whatever it may be–as often as possible.  Before you go on vacation, you may find that you’ve made an unconscious decision to have fun–why else are you investing so much time and money?  If the decision is a strong one, and you are determined to enjoy yourself, a rainstorm becomes an adventure, lost luggage becomes an excuse to buy new clothes. When you decide to be a force of peace, or of service to others, or simply to have a good time, you will find that events transpire to help you.  Wherever you put your focus, if you are determined to meet your goal, you will find ways to get there.  It may only take something small to get you going.  If you’re with a group of people you don’t know well but you are determined to relax and enjoy yourself, you may start by noticing how the sunlight feels on your skin or that your favorite song is playing.  Once you’ve started noticing things that are in line with your decision, you’ll find more of them, and change the quality of your entire day. So decide to treat your life as one long vacation.  Decide to enjoy yourself.  Decide to be open to new adventures.  Be curious.  Take the time to relax, and to be kind to others.  Intend joy for yourself and others.  Decide to see the best in others, and decide to make the most of each situation. When you don’t make these decisions, well, that’s a decision, too.  A decision to let other people, other events, dictate your experience.  A decision to float through life, feeling happy or sad based upon things outside of yourself.  Why not decide, instead, to love others, to love yourself, to find whatever happiness you can?

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