Tag Archive for: Journal to the Self Online

Family History: They Were Story Changers!

Tomorrow is Family History Day. The day honors the busiest day ever recorded at Ellis Island. April 17, 1907 was a milestone date, with 11,747 immigrants passing through towards their dream of making a new start in America. 

Family History in Context

Ellis Island is a symbolic place to many Americans, primarily those whose ancestors came from Europe. All Americans share a sense of resiliency, no matter the background of their ancestors. The vast majority of Americans share a sense of settling and starting anew from other places, while all, including indigenous peoples maintain special linkages to their historical traditions.

We are a nation of hybrids! Connected both to the United States, as well as to the roots of where our people come from.

Our Story Changers

What stands out to me on Family History Day is the strength and courage that our ancestors collectively shared. Whether giving up everything to save for a ticket to New York, or surviving the ordeal of the Middle Passage, our ancestors were Story Changers. Courageous and inspiring people who through luck, planning, resiliency or determination changed and built their own story — leading to ours today. Amazing!

Perceiving Our Story Changers Through Writing

Today in particular I celebrate the Story Changers we each descend from. And the Story Changers we all our individually — creating the pathway for future stories.

Journal writing is an incredible way to tap into the resiliency and wisdom of our individual and collective ancestors. The story of our families fall into three buckets: what’s known, unknown or hidden.

  • Known is available through records, stories and personal contact.
  • Unknown includes the fact we all descend from 4 grandparents, 8 great-grands, 16 great-greats and on and on. But as time passes we can lose some of those names and stories and information.
  • Hidden includes information that was destroyed, altered, or concealed, often to protect the secrets of others. Hidden information ranges from the identities of the biological parents of adoptees to the tribal connections of enslaved people.

Family History

Ancestry DNA testing is bringing more and more unknown or hidden information accessible and into the light. While empowering to discover, this information can also be unsettling. It can be a complicated experience of joy, mixed with the frustration or grief of what is or had been withheld from you.

Our intuition and perception can be an amazing tool to process unknown or hidden information as it is discovered, or to fill gaps where discovery is not possible. Insight Writing in your journal is a great way to tap your own intuition.

In honor of Family History Day I have shared a free guided meditation audio file on Insight Timer – Dialogue with Ancestors: A Meditation for Journal Writing. I invite you to walk in the shoes of your ancestors for a moment, and then write in your journal with their inspiration.

Celebrate your very own Story Changers today. And as you do so you are paving the stories of tomorrow.

 

Learn More About Your Story Changers

Your journal is an amazing resource to process what’s known, unknown or hidden about your own family and your Story Changers. I’m excited to announce the first of my classes and tools:

Understand Yourself & Your Family: Writing from the Head, the Heart and Your Own Gut Instinct

The first two sessions are open for registration now! Watch for specially designed tools and information coming me soon.

1 Simple Journal Writing Secret: Change Your Writing Forever!

What if I told you there is ONE very simple journal writing secret that can change your writing — and your life — in just two minutes.

I’ve been a journal writer my whole life. I even learned the Intensive Journal Method in my twenties and have been using it ever since. But about three years ago I learned the most amazing journal writing secret. And now it’s the basis for my own personal growth, and everything I teach about journal writing.

The Secret Tip for Journal Writing: Reflection Writing

Reflection Writing is the simple act of ending your journal write with mindfulness. It is as incredibly simple as it is powerful. The practice just takes two minutes, and combines the mindfulness benefits of meditating with the insight and personal growth benefits of journaling. The act of reflecting on your writing is an essential part of the journal writing process if you want to encourage your own growth and tap your own wisdom within.

Journal writing itself is useful for processing thoughts, reducing stress, making connections and more. But a reflection write takes your intuition and insights to a deeper level. A reflection write sets you up with momentum – the writing tells you what is going on. The reflection tells you what you want to do about it.

What is Reflection Writing?

The reflection write is the practice of ending your journal writing session. It is a moment to be present to what you have written, how the ritual of writing was for you, and what you learned about yourself, others, or your world.

To do a reflection write, simply:

  • reread whatever you have written,
  • take a deep breath,
  • then take a moment to observe the writing process, think about any surprises, themes or bigger messages, notice any feelings that come up, physical reactions.

For example, maybe the content of what you wrote was sad, but your handwriting indicates energy and happiness. Perhaps it shows the moment when you let go of something difficult and took that very first step into a new chapter for yourself. Or maybe you feel butterflies as you reread the entry — a signal from your ‘inner cheerleader’ that you are right where you need to be.

Reread your journal write almost as a detached and curious third-party. Are there ah has or themes or key words jumping out? Are you sensing a reaction somewhere physically in the body, or maybe a strong emotional tug? Sometimes in the reflection you might jot down a creative idea that came to you, a follow up writing idea, or any other action or follow up.

It’s best to set a timer for two minutes — this is plenty of time to take a deep breath, skim what you have written, take another deep breath and then with curiosity, write a reflection about whatever is standing out to you. Give yourself more time and you’ll end up trying so hard to search for big meaning, you’ll miss the little gems that are right in front of you!

Prompts for Reflection Writing

Any one of the following suggestions makes a great prompt for a journal reflection write. Ponder one for just a moment and then begin writing your reflection about your journal entry.

As I read this…

          I notice…

          I’m aware of…

          I’m surprised by…

          I’m curious about… 

          My follow up is…

Or anything similar.

 

Simple Journal Writing Secret Helps You Become Your Own Best Coach!

The best part of a reflection write is that it’s so quick and simple. you’ve just put the raw material in your journal, and with a quick skim you can see the imprint of those words in a bigger way wherever they land in your heart or your intuition, linked to your personal vision, or providing yourself a gentle hug if you need it, or enlightening a brand new path around an obstacle.

 

For more insight on Reflection Writing in your journal, listen to my free mini-podcast on Insight Timer.

Want to explore further? Check out the tips and resources on my Workshops & Tools page. All of my class activities give you a chance to explore reflection writing for yourself. Or download free journal prompt worksheets, schedule a free, personalized one-to-one trial session, or join a free mini-session on Wellness Writing Wednesday right from the Workshops page.

Coping COVID-19

Coping with COVID-19 – Tools from our Journals

In the past four weeks I’ve worked with over 45 students in online journaling workshops as each looked for ways to process the impact of the COVID-19 crisis individually and as a learning community. Nearly 75% of the way complete, it’s fascinating what we’ve shared together. And the lessons I’ve learned. My big takeaway comes down to four coping categories, and eight simple journal techniques.

As groups, we’re using journaling as a means to cope with this crisis. But the categories apply no matter how you approach self-care. The important thing is to do what feels right for you — and do something every day, just don’t overdo it.

Key Lessons from our Journals

From rocket scientists to sleep experts I’ve been chronicling the benefits to journaling, especially right now, here on my blog. I’ve also been keeping tabs on the leading thinking coming out of places like the Mayo Clinic and the Center for Disease Control. But it’s my students who had the wisest, most simple wisdom to share from their examples:

Be Present. Present to Emotions, Uncertainty, Gratitude.

Routine. Do something basic every day to Boost Immunity, Sleep Consistently, Journal.

Release. It’s hard enough to take in so much change and so much bad news at once. Let alone to process it. Release in the way that feels right to you through things like Hobbies, Books/Music, Moments of joy.

Connect. At this time of separation we need as many ways to connect as still possible. Focus on Loved Ones, Helping Others, Nature, Faith.

And through their own courage to learn new ways to connect with their journals right now, these students have reminded me of the most simple and effective tools for this moment.

Journal Tools in the Time of COVID-19

Based what I’ve observed with my students these past few weeks, the best approach is to try something simple, with the intent of addressing at least one of the four categories every day. (Colored fonts below indicate a link to additional resources on most techniques.)

Be Present:

  • 5 Minute Sprints – Set a timer for 5, add “What’s going on?…” as your prompt. Write.
  • Reflection Writing – Whatever you end up writing, reread it (aloud if you want to), take a breath, write for one more minute about whatever comes to you. You are your own best coach and advocate.
  • Stream of Consciousness – Take a long walk, focus on your breathing for 3 minutes or daydream for 5. Then open your journal. Write.

Routine:

  • Topics du Jour – Find seven topics that mean the most to you right now. Select one topic per day of the week and assign each to its own page in your journal. Do one quick write on each day’s topic. Repeat each week. For example: Mondays – ‘Managing Stress’, Tuesdays – ‘Healthy Habits’, Wednesday – ‘My Kiddos’, etc.

Release:

  • Clustering – Write a focus word in the center of a journal page and circle it. It could be an emotion you wish to process, a word that represents something that brings you joy, or inspires you. Take a few deep breaths as you consider your word. Then doodle and sketch with branches with whatever comes to mind. When you finish, describe your doodle in words.
  • Dreams – Many of us have been dreaming more often, and we’re remembering more of our dreams, and they are more vivid right now. Dreams are the subconscious mind’s way to process what happens during our day. A journal is a beneficial way to complete that processing.

Connect:

  • Character Sketch – Think of one special person in your life and observe fully in your mind what they mean to you emotionally, as a physical presence, the lessons they have for you, any inspiration or memories. Sit and be present with them for a few moments. Then use your journal to record a vivid description. When you are done, pick up the phone, send a card, or hop on a Zoom call. Share the highlights of your write, or just enjoy the interaction. If this loved one is no longer with us or inaccessible right now, find a ritual to share the highlights — perhaps whisper them to the first star you see in the evening sky.
  • Captured Moment – Let a joyful moment come to mind and then experience it again in your mind using all five senses. Linger for a moment. Then record it in your journal.

Remember the Overall Wisdom

I hope this framework for thinking about coping and self-care is helpful in this moment. Remember to keep it simple, but do something to support yourself each day. Being present, finding routine, releasing and connecting are powerful tools whether your work on them through your journal or in other ways.

 

All of these techniques are presented in the Journal to the Self workshops I teach. Given the current situation, I’m running only online classes right now and finalizing a schedule. Please contact me as I may be able to open a class for you!

 

Photo by Lisa Fotios, Pexels. 

dreams

Understanding Dreams in the Time of Coronavirus

Since social distancing due to coronavirus has started I find myself incredibly tired so early on some nights, completely crashed out on others, and sometimes I just toss and turn and toss and turn.

And man, regardless of the type of sleep, I’ve had some crazy dreams.

Dream Insight

I’ve since learned that this is common around the world. Sleep experts think there is a combination of forces at work. In some ways the daily stress is so much it’s making us sleep lighter or more soundly than usual. With dreams, sleeping so soundly encourages our brains to dream more vividly, while sleeping erratically causes us to wake up and recall them more easily.

According to an article by Psychology Today called, “How Dreams and Stories Handle Emotional Chaos” offers a note of reassurance, even if our dreaming is unsettling now:

…one of the reasons we dream is to make sense of what happens to us during the day, even the worst dreams we have are still plot-driven, still make some sort of emotional sense, and still clean some of the psychological litter box. They allow us to function better in our waking lives because they clear out emotional, spiritual, and intellectual detritus. 

In an LA Times article entitled “You’re not imagining it: We’re all having intense coronavirus dreams” Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., explains this process further:

When we observe something normal, our brains don’t need to “digest” it, he says. However, when something out of the ordinary happens — like a pandemic — our brains may process the experience through dreaming. That’s why “difficult-to-digest” experiences may give us dreams, Naiman explains.

Dream Work in Your Journal

Your journal can be an excellent tool to process these vivid dreams. Some can pull at you later during waking hours. Some tips:

  • Capture very basic facts immediately when you wake in the morning (or even very gently at night so you don’t further disrupt your sleep)
  • Keep a pen, notepad and even a small flashlight on your nightstand
  • Once you are fully awake take a moment to look at your quick sketch and recall your dream in more details; giving it a title can help
  • Remember that any dream you recall is a story from your subconscious; it can be a source of inspiration and release for your thinking brain too

Some options for processing your dreams:

  • Write your dream title (from above) in a circle and then brainstorm all the ideas, feelings, details, symbols that come. This is a journal technique called Clustering.
  • Write the name of a symbol or character from the dream inside the center circle and try a Clustering that way.
  • Close your eyes and take in a central character from the dream or one that repeats in your dreams and take a few deep breaths. Then write what’s called a Character Sketch in your journal. Describe everything about this character from your five senses. Be open to what more this character may have to share with you, what they represent.
  • Try an Artmaking activity with a collage of magazine clippings, drawings or doodles to represent what you experienced in a dream.

For me, one really vivid dream stand out. It was a giant monarch butterfly telling me to go back to sleep. She had to return and remind me two more times during that one fitful night of sleep.

The next morning in my journal I was able to connect her reminder to the ‘butterflies’ I’ve been feeling in my stomach during the day. I constantly have that nag in my gut like when my little guy played soccer goalie and I just closed my eyes until the penalty kicks were all done. I became aware of the transformation symbolism of the butterfly — it’s hard work to change from a caterpillar, but we’re working together to save lives in our community and that’s a beautiful thing.

 

Clustering, Character Sketch, Artmaking and Dreamwork are a sample of the techniques I teach in Journal to the Self workshops. Given the current situation, I’m running only online classes and finalizing a schedule. Please contact me as I may be able to open a class for you!

Even NASA has Journal Power!

If you’re like me, you’re hunkering down for safety, while your head and heart try to process what this pandemic really means on a day-to-day basis.

Astronaut Scott Kelly (the twin who was in space for a year) offered some inspired tips on what it takes to live effectively in isolation.

The NYTimes shared an article written by the astronaut. One of the unexpected findings was the importance of keeping a journal while in isolation.  You can read “I Spent a Year In Space, and I Have Tips on Isolation to Share” on the New York Times (you may need a guest log in to view the content).
His tip on journal writing is about mid-way into the article (bold added for emphasis):

NASA has been studying the effects of isolation on humans for decades, and one surprising finding they have made is the value of keeping a journal. Throughout my yearlong mission, I took the time to write about my experiences almost every day. If you find yourself just chronicling the days’ events (which, under the circumstances, might get repetitive) instead try describing what you are experiencing through your five senses or write about memories. Even if you don’t wind up writing a book based on your journal like I did, writing about your days will help put your experiences in perspective and let you look back later on what this unique time in history has meant.

Turns out you CAN be a rocket scientist. All you need is your journal!

Power for Your Journal

Captured Moment is a writing technique from Journal to the Self that empowers us to write memories from the five senses. It is just one of 18 techniques I teach. My next online class starts April 16th. Join me! Learn more on the Workshops page, download a free sample first, or schedule a no obligation phone call to chat about how I can support your own journey, especially in these uncertain times.

NASA Photo by Bill Ingalls.

Inspired by February: Head, Heart, Gut Instinct

February is the shortest month, but packed with inspiration. I think of it as Head (Abraham Lincoln’s birthday), Heart (Valentine’s Day, of course) and Gut Instinct (taking a leap into Spring). My posts this month have reflected ways to use this inspiration in your journal.

As we enjoy today, the gift of one extra day, I’ll share some tools to tap the Head, Heart and Gut.

Tools for Head, Heart, Gut Instinct

Be sure to download my free Head, Heart, Gut worksheet. It’s the perfect prompt for the ‘Five Minute Sprint’ Journal technique. Great if you just have a few moments for your journal. And, it works great if you are feeling fuzzy or overwhelmed and wish to better understand what’s going on for you.

If you have more time, or wish to take your writing deeper you can listen to the Head, Heart, Gut audio meditation first on Insight Timer. The guided meditation will help you relax and focus with a short body scan and some relaxation breathing. (File should be live on my Insight Timer library this weekend.)

Enjoy this bonus day that calls us to trust our instincts and take a Leap!

All these journal techniques are designed to help you be your own personal growth coach and guide towards your own vision. Try these free tools and then let’s schedule a no obligation phone call to chat about how I can support your own change journey. Mark your calendar and plan to join me for my next online Journal to the Self® workshop which begins March 12.