Thursday, April 26, 2012

My journaling practices


I have been journaling for a long time, but in this last year, I find that I actually need  three different notebooks for the different practices that I'm doing.  It may soon be four books, as I think I soon need to separate my Religious Education related thoughts from my personal spiritual practice and self-reflection thoughts.

There are many different ways to pursue journaling as a spiritual practice, and I have not tried them all.  So what I'm going to describe is just what I do, not a prescription for The Way of The Journal.

I keep a general journal with me in my purse, and pull it out to jot down thoughts that occur to me during the day.  I also use that journal when I'm reading, and I record quotes that strike me from my reading and write responses to my readings.  Spending some time every day writing, copying thought-provoking passages, and then writing a response to them is my primary daily spiritual practice.

My other journals are for more specific needs.  I found that I needed a place to record what we did in our homeschool, and also my observations about the children.  Here I jot down the facts of what we did, and how they did, and my thoughts about where we should go next with our studies.  I purchased a day planner for this, so that the days are already recorded and if I miss a day it is obvious to me.  That keeps me honest on making daily observations.

And my third journal is my solution to the emotional burden I was beginning to feel of carrying other people's joys and sorrows in my heart.  I am told things in confidence, and asked to provide pastoral care to members of my congregation, my outside friends, my family, even by virtual friends I only know through reading their blogs.  What do you do when someone asks you to "pray for me"?  What do you do when you have just spent an hour lovingly and actively listening to someone speak of their pain and sorrow and worry and stress?  I was letting all of this weigh my heart down too much, and in recent months more and more people have reached out to me and asked if we could just talk - if I could just come listen for a bit, hold them in my heart in love, be a sounding board for their worries.  Of course I will, but then what do I do?

That's why I started the "Sara's Cares Book".  A simple lined journal, to record everyone that I'm holding in my heart right now.  I use initials, and I write down what they are going through right now.  I like to also record joys as well - it feels better to have the book hold some positive stuff too.  And I go back through the last month or so and re-read it regularly, thinking again of each of those people.  If they are still in that place of stress or sorrow, I write them down again on the new day's entry.  If they are doing better, I put a little smiley face or a heart next to the original entry.  It's helpful for me to see all these sorrows easing, these worries resolving, and these stresses finding release.

This practice is really helping me to compartmentalize, to keep my own emotional life separate from that of others, but to still care and actively hold others in my heart.  And now, whenever someone asks "please pray for me" or "send me good energy for ..." I have something I can actually Do.  I write them in my book. :)

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