Who would have thought that the greatest struggle is picking up the pen and moving it across a blank page with purpose, and without judging both the content and the quality of your own writing. Or even that the content is safe from scrutiny and prying eyes on the pages of your journal.
Contrary to popular belief, your journal should not start with the words, “Dear Diary”, nor should it read like the recounting of the days events, or even the distant past; rehashing and potentially re-triggering. Instead, journaling is meant to be the purposeful exploration of a problem for the sake of processing it, enhancing your awareness, and ideally, finding a sense of resolution, closure or completion.
Your journal is a tool to better understand yourself. You’ll want to ask a lot of “what?” questions. What was going on for me here, what was/am I feeling, what is the significance of this, what are my beliefs around this, or even where did I learn this? What questions have a bottom line whereas “why?” questions throw us into a mental process with few definitive answers. Other good questions; “towards what end?” meaning what is my intention here, what was/am I hoping to accomplish. I also like “and then what?” meaning what lies beneath, what is the absolute bottom line?
Unfortunately, two of the things that our egos prevent are total accountability and the opportunity to use curiosity to overcome our fears and tribulations. Ego says, stay safe at all costs, and uses every tool in its arsenal: melodrama, drama, fear, terror, negative self talk, self-sabotage, punitive statements, selective memory, and the like. The egos job is to keep us safe; just it isn’t very mature, is more colorful than realistic, and can be a bit sensational. Through journaling, you get to know the ego intimately, and walk yourself through the corrective experience of challenging its varied tools.
The other thing about the ego… it likes to end on a low note. I can’t, I will fail, I will be abandoned, I’ll never succeed, I will always be alone, no one loves me, no one will ever love me. Sound familiar? The ego also answers questions like what did I learn from this with sweeping generalizations; to never trust again, etc. When you journal you want to ENSURE that you challenge these automatic thoughts. Subdue them and end on either a positive note, or a permissive note: “Even though I’m afraid, I trust ______” type of statement. If your journaling makes you feel worse, you’re probably rehashing your mental filters and not allowing your own strengths and resilience to shine through as the hero in your own process (which, it actually is).
The things to remember:
· Ensure your content is safe
· Keep the focus on the present; don’t linger too long in the past
· Look for patterns in your behavior and interactions over time
· Challenge your distorted thinking
· Talk about next steps which lead to resolution
· Ask yourself “what” questions
· Use curiosity to explore what’s going on
· Keep the focus on yourself; use I statements
When I was little, I saw an ad in the paper: write an essay on your best summer adventure and win a week of pony camp. Well, I probably wrote the most predictable piece, ever, on ponies and trail riding, and of course, I wasn’t selected. Not to be deterred, I marched right up to my parents and all but demanded a week of pony camp. Denied. Incidentally I was also denied my pleas for boarding school where horseback riding was a key component… Rethinking my tactic, I did what any desperate and longing little girl would do; I asked my grandparents.
Now, my grandmother, was an ingenious woman. She had read in a Reader’s Digest of all places about someone who went an entire year without television for some heroic purpose. So she made me an offer. She and my grandfather would send me to pony camp the following summer, IF, I gave up television immediately for an entire year… She subsequently bought me my first library card. I still have zero interest in television.
My dad tells it a little differently. While he jokes about the little girl who at five went on her first pony ride and was forever besotted, it is quite a different story he holds in his heart. My dad and I loved spending time together when I was a child, and one memorable day, he took me to Heritage Park , a living historical museum in Calgary, AB. As we beelined for the farm, there was a paddock with two of the heavy horses used for wagon rides beckoning me to pet them. I did, and hand fed them grass over the fence. When it was time to leave, I ran down the hill and the horses, both of them, ran along beside me. All the way. My dad says that in that moment, he knew there was something special between me and horses. Something so sacred he would help nurture that relationship forever.
I bought my first horse, Amber, on my 16th Birthday. Surprised the heck out of my mum..! I learned to ride, learned how to work with horses scarred by unfavorable human-horse interactions, fell even deeper in love. Tyfaari came to me a month before my 23rd Birthday, right off the racetrack and in between heats, retiring from racing at the ripe old age of 3. I wish all retired racehorses were so lucky. Jenny came to me three days before my 29th Birthday, and Sammy, a little over a week before my 33rd Birthday.
There’s a part of me that measures my life in horses; noticing how different they are in personality and temperament. They are certainly symbolic of where I was in my life, what lessons I was learning, and how I was shaping my life to revolve evermore around horses and equine assisted therapy. Incidentally, in the summer I became a stepmom, Sammy, pregnant at the time, joined my herd. Coincidence? I think not! Even Gus, who decided to be ours in July (my Birthday month) came into our herd not just to participate in equine assisted therapy, but to teach my youngest son how to ride. Perhaps symbolic also that Gus is the first permanent male member of my herd.
The horses and our relationships with them tell stories. Mine is in a personal evolution which transformed my definition and experience of love. Of purpose too, but isn’t that synonymous with following your heart? I think so, and horses are certainly in mine.
There are some people who offer you an experience which changes your life forever – and most of them will never know it.
The other day, I was getting ready for bed and my deceased maternal grandmother came for a visit. God I love her. She was singing “Danny Boy” in my head, and as I started singing along, the messages started coming. One of things she told me was that my next blog should be how I got into social work…. So today I sit down to write it and was dumbfounded by what actually presented…
This is what I was going to write: If it weren’t for divine intervention, I am not sure that I would have ever figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had so many interests, and only two passions – animals, and horseback riding – neither of which would offer me a career. (Trust me.) What to do, what to do? I went into University without a clue. I took a bunch of random classes and found myself in a religious studies class, taught by a very inspiring professor.
Now, the interesting thing about this class, was that it happened to hold the when and where of such a clear clairaudient command that my career path became solidified. “Social Work”. That’s all my guides said, but I applied immediately, got selected and now have two degrees in it. Can’t lie, I had a bit of a moment when it was time to select my classes and realised exactly what it is that I had signed up for… I had, ironically, vowed previously to never work with people. Never say never (which could be a whole other blog post!)
In all honesty, I was going to drag this story out a bit; add some suspense, a few more details… but then I was dumbfounded. I didn’t take just one of her classes, I took 3, and my command to be a social worker came, incidentally, in the very last one.
In the first of these classes, we welcomed a guest presenter, who was speaking to Chan Buddhism. Turns out the UofC had been talking with Chinese officials for a while and they were now offering a religious studies trip to China to learn about Buddhism, which I immediately signed up for. I was introduced to Buddhism, a new way of thinking about ascension and enlightenment, given tools to get there and learned to mediate.
In the second class, she opened my eyes to a whole new world – not in religion, but in how faith makes the impossible possible. We were talking about ceremony and tradition, levitation and ritual vegetarianism in Phuket. (Google it.) When I watched a master enter into trance, cut off his tongue, and reattach it perfectly, I knew wholeheartedly that there was more to be had of my own experience. I knew that we as bodies, as people, as participants, were capable of so much more. In that moment, I started a personal quest to find it.
Everything in our lives is moving us towards alignment. We branch out from Source to become incarnate – to taste manifestation – only to find ourselves lost to doubt, fear, resistance, disbelief, conditioning, gender identification, maladaptive beliefs, karma, consequence, invasion. Then it becomes about our search for meaning; who are we, what is the nature of suffering, why am I even here?
Its so easy to get lost when we are constantly bombarded by external energies and influences; everything from malignant energies to stereotypes, bad parenting to bullying. That’s nothing in comparison to the internalization of lies – that we could ever be inadequate, worthless, broken, depraved, or worse, that we could fail.
How can we possibly fail when the road-map is hardwired into the very essence of our beings?
Because we have flaws? Because we are imperfect? Because we chose to berate ourselves with guilt judgement, comparisons?
The problem is not that we are flawed, or even that we have flaws. The problem is in our relationship with our flaws. What would happen, for instance, if we allowed ourselves to sink into the realisation that the reason we have flaws, weaknesses, the gamut of positive and negative qualities and characteristics, is because us and the Universe need to close some doors to help us stay on course, to complete our missions and mandates, and to equip us in perfect balance with exactly what we need. Why am I not blessed with artistic talent? Because painting and music would consume my days to the exclusion of all else and, quite frankly, I have better things to do. Take for instance that my best healing work happens through counselling, through my work with animals, through my relationships… (which is why I love them beyond all others and am so good at them!) All would be lost to art; I would fail to serve myself, would fail to complete my own learning process, and would have a much smaller impact on the rest of humanity.
Moving into a state of alignment means that we are seeking to exist in harmonious living, which, coincidentally, is synonymous with “living your bliss”. Remember: happiness is a mood; bliss is a state of being. The only one really, as it is what we crave with every fiber of our beings. Its time destigmatize being human, and to embrace it, flaws and all. As we change this relationship, we create space for uniqueness, tolerance, fortitude, sincerity, authenticity and celebration.
This is my journey, and I hope it helps.