Monday, September 13, 2004

Journal keeping - the art of living and learning twice

That's the title of the inspirational article I read three and a half years ago. It speaks RyukyuSoul's recently entry Why blog?. I'll just include the highlights from my copy:

March 22, 2001

Author: Kathleen Hirsch, Globe Correspondent

It was another writer's words more than a decade ago that prompted me to build a window seat in my living room devoted to memory. His book, "Time and the Art of Living," urged me to become more aware of how I used my days, to learn to better treasure them, in order that I might live into the wisdom of knowing with some clarity what it was I really thought, experienced, loved.


My journal is the place where I set these images down. Also, where I give vent to doubt, resentment, desperate wishes, struggles, and the dredgings of dream - all the unexpected, unhoped-for miracles of the every day that we call "life," but rarely get around to cherishing as we should.

Journals have given my life an expansiveness that simply living each moment of it doesn't, because, in writing it down, I live it twice, the second time often more imaginatively and deeply than the first. The impulse, always, is insight, a deeper glimpse into meaning. In the journal, I gather what Virginia Woolf has called, "a mass of odds and ends," verbal snapshots, snippets of quotations, recipes for living, in the hopes that when I return to them weeks and months later, the collection has, in her words, "sorted and refined itself and coalesced . . . into a mould, transparent enough to reflect the light of our life, and yet steady, tranquil compounds with the aloofness of a work of art."


As Deena Metzger, another advocate of journal-keeping, writes, "One can say that one of the basic conditions of contemporary life is the unfulfilled longing of the self for the self." This is where the journal comes in.

In lives that can feel like a beautiful but tangled garden, in which we can't see what's what, much less attempt a harvest, the journal is a powerful ally in preserving a sense of order and continuity. It forces us to slow down. Simply choosing to spend 15 minutes observing, instead of dashing, puts us in a different relationship to our actions. When we write, we pay attention. We begin to see and to honor what is unique to our journeys. We become more adept at peering beneath the surface of matters, to inner workings of the soul, and through this to the heart of those questions we may be asking ourselves (or wanting to ask) without having had the courage before.


Far and away the question I am asked most often, however, is: "How do I sustain the discipline of journal-keeping? How do I do it day after day?" A journal isn't an object, much less a duty. It is a relationship. Like most relationships, there are a variety of ways to make it work over time. The key is to give yourself permission to use your curiosity about your world in ways that work for you.


Acquaintances have changed careers, left partners, plunged into new forms of creativity, all because their journals have pointed them in the right direction and haven't run away when the going got rough. Most of those who maintain serious spiritual practices keep journals. They are a writer's basic tool. But journals make even the most ordinary of us pilgrims and artists in our own rights. Becoming larger beings, risking spiritual growth, daring to envision, plan, and, finally, act on change, learning what we love, are all possibilities awaiting us within the blank journal.

For more on journal writing, try: "A Walk Between Heaven and Earth" by Nina Holzer (Bell Tower), "Life's Companion" by Christina Baldwin (Bantam), and "A Voice of Her Own" by Marleme Schiwy (Simon & Schuster), and "Leaving a Trace" by Alex Johnson (Little Brown).

Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company
Record Number: 0103220031

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