Tag Archive for: prompts

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.

Transitions are Trying — 5 Tips for Letting Go

If there’s one theme that’s followed all of my professional career, it’s this — transitions are trying.

Why Transitions are Trying

In reality, the best use of change management skills were surprisingly — or not so surprisingly — during the 15 years I worked as a real estate agent. Change stinks!

What I witnessed first-hand while working with hundreds of families is what William Bridges mapped out in his famous model that describes why transitions are so hard. A huge stressor in life is when you sit between two places — the way it was, and the way it will be.

The shift between the past and the future is a slow, shifty, unsettled place Bridges calls the ‘Neutral Zone’. Transition happens as Bridges describes it, in the process of letting go during your time in the Neutral Zone.

Tricky Transitions in the Time of Pandemic

In December I wrote for the Insight Timer blog about how the year 2020 engulfed us, without a moment to transition, and why that leaves an emotional challenge.

Now as spring begins, the days are getting longer, the daffodils are starting to grow, the vaccines have arrived. Hope is on the horizon again! But even a New Beginning full of positive things can be a challenging transition. Think about the bittersweet moments that come with huge milestones like becoming a parent or getting married or retiring. Benefits and excitement, absolutely. But also a lot of adjustments, and apprehension and the insecurity that comes with trying new things.

How To Ease Into Transition

In my 20s I lived in Chicago and played in a group tennis league with a great group of friends. The first season started in March, but I didn’t show up until May. Chicago is famous for its ‘cooler by the lake’ weather patterns which creates natural air conditioning in August, but makes for miserable spring tennis! The next season I showed up in March. I let go of my expectations of when summer starts. And to this day I still remind myself, ‘If you wait for the weather to show up in order to enjoy summer, you’ll miss the whole season!”

The incredibly taxing social, health, wellness, political and medical phenomena of the COVID-19 pandemic will take years for us to fully put it behind. But here are some ideas to help you start seeing what’s Ending, as we all begin to live in the New Beginning. These are ideas as we live right now in the Neutral Zone:

  • The obvious first — write in your journal. Keep the prompts simple, like:

What’s going on?

 

Or my internal weather report right now is…

 

  • Always end in reflection. Remember, transitions are not easy. Reflection Writing is a really simple way for self-care, self-soothing and self-growth in whatever combo you need those!
  • Watch for patterns. You don’t want to wait for the warm, perfect weather of summer before you start enjoying the summer! After a while, using simple prompts like the ones above on a regular basis will help you see the movement happening in your world. Like a daffodil sprouting you’ll witness and learn from your own transition as it unfolds.
  • Be patient. Transitions do not move in a logical line. As we shift into a post-pandemic world, some days will be full of hope and excitement, others will be stressful or discouraging. Be present to whatever is happening, remind yourself that the Neutral Zone is constantly shifting and keep a focus on what you are learning about yourself and your own resiliency.
  • Try. We’re all waiting for the all-clear from the CDC and other health experts that the time for safety measures is complete. We’re getting closer, but not there yet. In the meantime, it’s OK to start thinking about a wishlist for ‘normal’ experiences, or to start figuring out how to get back to some old activities again that work most easily within the safety protocols.

Assessing Where You Are

As you think about the Neutral Zone, here’s a way to consider where you are at right now.

Picture your favorite pair of ‘evening out’ jeans. Where are they right now? How weird would it feel to pull them out again? To try them on? To wear them out in public?

Isn’t that crazy how a simple pair of jeans can carry so much baggage right now?

Sorting through that sort of experience is what the Neutral Zone is all about.

The Cool Thing about Letting Go

friends focus futureWhat I remember most from my days selling real estate is that moment when I saw a client finally let go. Happens in a split-second. But then there is JOY!

The process was always something along the lines of starting with apprehension about finding a place that was ‘just right’. And then apprehension about packing, finding a new grocery store, meeting the neighbors, saying goodbye to cherished memories. And finally whether it was before a contract was even signed, or after settling in for a while, that moment of Letting Go, of taking more steps in the world of the New Beginning than in the Ending. And from that point, more and more steps into the New Beginning each time.

It won’t be easy, but the New Beginning is starting. The last year has aged us, but we’ve learned so much about being resilient. Be patient in the Neutral Zone. Use it for the springboard that it is. See you in the New Beginning, let’s shoot for sooner rather than later!

More Tools for Transition

I teach Insight Writing as a method for journaling that is inspired, efficient and insightful. Whether for general self-care or in a time of transition, Insight Writing is an amazing way to tap the wisdom within you. For more information, find free samples, free mini-podcasts or a list of available workshops on my website. Or find me on Dabble where you can sign up for mini-workshops or drop-in for a free class! My featured class on Dabble is called, “Transition Time | Leaving 2020 in the Rearview Mirror!”

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.

abc7 holiday selfcare

Self-Care This Holiday Season — Yes, Please!

Self-care is more important than ever right now. Had the honor of talking with Leah Hope from ABC7 News last week about tips for self-care this holiday season.

From ABC7 News: How to self-care, improve mental health amid pandemic holiday

The video and transcript article includes some great advice on different options for self-care. Dr. Sonya Dinizulu made a great point, “It’s not meant to be commercialized or glamorized.” Remember that splurging on a spa da is not the same as self-care!

More Holiday Self-Care Tips

Here are some additional tips I shared with Leah:

  • Be present. Be realistic. This season is going to be hard. You will get through it. You will still have great moments to enjoy.
  • Keep things simple. We’re all multi-tasking from home. We’re all juggling different types of bad news. We’re all trying to figure out a way to salvage important holiday traditions. Make time for yourself everyday. Take a few deep breaths. Enjoy the warm light of a candle. Go for a short walk.
  • Release when you need to. Don’t hold it all in. This is a ‘novel’ or first-of-its-kind virus. We are all literally figuring things out as we go. Your journal is a great place to get things out of your head when you need to release. It can be very powerful to process things first on paper.
  • Don’t overdo it. As far as journal-writing, shorter bursts of writing have a ton of impact. A timer set for five minutes is perfect. Enough time to get thoughts on paper, but not so much time that your inner-grammar nerd starts striving for words that ‘sound right’ (this is just for you anyway, right?).
  • Connect. One of the hardest aspects of the pandemic is how isolating the experience is. Connect by phone or video or texts as often as you can. But you can connect in your journal too. Just writing about a tradition or a person you care about brings along that important feeling of being connected with others.
  • Give yourself permission to feel joy. For more about the Joy Jot that I shared with Leah, please visit my blog. Or you can hear an audio version on Insight Timer.

Gather Your Friends – New Alternatives for Self-Care this Holiday Season

Friends Focus Future

What we could all use right now is more time to connect with friends. If you are looking for a fun option for self-care, in the company of your friends, please join me for a New Year workshop. I have all the tools to make it easy for you and up to 12 friends to connect in a private, virtual meeting space. You can wave goodbye to 2020 together, and provide some mutual support and encouragement as we look forward more than ever to a brand new year! You can read all about these wonderful sessions on the ‘Workshops’ page of my website.

2020 has been rough. But there’s better times ahead. You’ve got this! Best, Laura

 

 

 

 

Create a Giving Mindset: The Power of Your Journal This Holiday Season

I’m thrilled to be featured once again on the Insight Timer Blog with a special article about mindfulness this holiday season.

Copy below or click to on their website.

Create a Giving Mindset: The Power of Your Journal This Holiday Season

The holiday season approaches, and it will be one like no other. Amidst a global pandemic many connections and traditions we look forward to may be a bit different this year. While not a replacement, the blended practices of meditation and journal-writing can be a beautiful alternative for this moment. And perhaps some can inspire new traditions for you going forward.

It’s no coincidence that many of the world’s major religions have traditions of connection, and of light, in what is the darkest part of the year in the northern hemisphere. And lack of connection is one of the most challenging sides of living through this pandemic. This holiday season lands at a time some believe may be in the ‘third-quarter phenomenon’ – a trend that has been noted by those that study experiences of extended isolation, such as living on the International Space Station or at the research campus on Antarctica. No matter the overall timeline of the isolation, around two-thirds to three-fourths of the way through, moods and morale hit a low-point.

With the caution of COVID-19 numbers hitting new records in many parts of the world, but the promising news of vaccine rollouts seeming imminent, it could very well be that the holiday season and the lows of the ‘third-quarter’ of the pandemic will overlap.

So what are some new ways for right now we can use to connect to traditions and others, create a giving mindset for ourselves, and celebrate what is a season of light in so many cultures? The combined practices of meditation and mindful journal-writing gives us a pathway.

Mindful Journaling In The Holiday Season

The practice of meditative and mindful journaling is a simple three-step process:

Begin — Be present: take some deep breaths, listen to an audio journal prompt, take a walk. Let your writing prompt find you.

Write – Shorter is better! 5-10 minutes is just enough.

Reflect – Take a few deep breaths, read and be present to what you have just written. What surprises or insights stand out? Now write yourself one last line of reflection.

You can learn more about reflection writing in the talk below:

Reflective Writing In Your Journal, by Laura Stukel

 

Ideas to combine meditation and mindful journal-writing in this holiday season:

Linger in a few moments of beautiful candlelight

Many different traditions draw from light in the darkness. Enjoy some deep breaths as you feel your body relax. Sit and be present to the stillness. When you are ready, begin to write, using this meditative beginning and then following your pen wherever your writing takes you.

You might want to try this candle breathing meditation by Sara Rabinovitch, Ph.D.

Use images or wording from cards given or received as a springboard into writing

Extend the tradition and the exchange by being present to any inspiration. Reflect on a selected card for a moment and take a few relaxing breaths. When you are ready, use a few words from the card as a starter and then follow your pen.

Connect in a deep way, without limitations of time or space

A Character Sketch journal write is a description of someone dear, using a moment of meditation to be together in your mind (anyone special – perhaps even someone who has passed on). Close your eyes and picture your dear one approaching, then standing near. Finally, be present with them, using all of your five senses. When you are ready, describe your dear one in your journal. To really experience a moment of a giving mindset, you may choose to conclude your session by writing a special holiday card to this person, and mailing or delivering it symbolically to a loved one passed.

Capture special holiday moments

Similar to the technique above, a Captured Moment journal write begins with quiet meditation, and an observation in your mind, using all five senses. Seasonal scents or essential oils add inspiration. To try, simply sit in quiet with your eyes closed, and picture a blank, white screen in front of you. Allow yourself to call forward holiday memories from the past, watching them pass like a movie, or as if flipping through a photo album. Then let one be fully present to you, and enjoy that moment again using all five senses. When you are ready, write, describing this holiday moment in time as if you are enjoying it again in slow motion.

Embrace the symbols, inspiration and perspective of holiday traditions

From images of the sun on the Winter Solstice, to the story of the oil lasting for eight nights, to the journey of the three wise men, we have rich connections to culture, history, traditions and nature in this time of year. Secular and pop culture adds more layers. Using music, stories, family heirlooms, religious texts, or similar inspiration, find perspective and in your journal. Travel space and time as you need to. Write as another person if it suits you. Quietly center yourself amidst your inspiration, and then write.

For example, imagine yourself being among the peoples who placed the columns at Stonehenge, then write as that person observing the season present. Or maybe enjoy the classic song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and then write from the perspective of Bing Crosby himself, with whatever wisdom he may be able to impart into your journal. Or, Ebenezer Scroorge perhaps? Take in bubbe’s latke recipe, noting the careful way she described the steps, and then write from her perspective as if she was experiencing the present moment in time. You get the idea.

Dialogue with a Grandparent – Meditation for Journal Writing by Laura Stukel

 

Create a Mindset of Giving

Yes, this holiday season will be unlike any we have experienced before. And yes, there are challenges. Remember to take time to be present, and to create new, mindful ways to connect with traditions and loved ones during this season. Blending the practices of meditation and journal-writing will allow us to experience holiday traditions in new, creative and heart-filling ways.

 

Insight TImer Feature

Blend Meditation + Journal Writing – Featured on Insight Timer

Thrilled to be featured right now on the Insight Timer blog. Check out my guest post about the benefits and how to of blending meditation with journal writing. Or is it journal writing with meditation? Read more to find out.

‘Mindful Journaling’ feature on Insight Timer.

 

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.

Lincoln Inspiration

Since I studied the Ira Progoff journal method in my twenties, Abraham Lincoln has been my most consistent source of journal inspiration. From his quotes as a Springboard, to his wisdom in Dialogues, and his leadership through Character Sketches I continue to be influenced by his amazing poise, grace and insights.

Here’s a favorite Lincoln quote as a Springboard for your journal, in honor of his birthday today:

Character is like a tree; reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.

Or try:

What is the real thing? …

Springboards, Dialogue and Character Sketches are just a few of the 18 amazing techniques I teach during Journal to the Self workshops. My next online course begins on March 4th. Join me! Learn more on the Workshops page (online and in-person session). If you’d like, download the free sample there first, or let’s schedule a no obligation phone call to chat about how I can support your own change journey.

 

Photo by Caleb Fisher on Unsplash.

The most personal is the most creative …

Parasite was the big delightful surprise out of the Oscars last night — the first time a foreign language film has taken home the top prize. This was one of many awards the film took home, including Best Director for Bong Joon-Ho.

In his acceptance speech, Joon-Ho shared a quote that he explained in English was “carved deep into my heart” and he acknowledged Martin Scorsese in the audience as the source.

From Joon-Ho via Scorses, it makes for a brilliant Springboard for your journal:

The most personal is the most creative.

Or try:

Carved deep into my heart…

Springboard is just one of 18 amazing techniques I teach during Journal to the Self workshops. Learn more on the Workshops page (online and in-person session). Or, if you prefer to sample first, try a free technique, or let’s schedule a no obligation phone call to chat about how I can support your own change journey.

 

New York Times photo.

Using Meditation for Journal Writing

As a teacher, my goal is always to help students understand the wisdom within. It’s possible to tap this wisdom through the practice of journal writing. One amazing suggestion to empower your journal writing is by using an entrance meditation.

An entrance meditation is anything that works for you to quiet yourself before you begin writing. This process of settling the day-to-day busy-ness of our brain then engages the more intuitive, creative, symbol-oriented part of our brain to inspire our writing. For some a long walk, time in the garden or a warm bath is helpful. For others, a beautiful quote or lyric from a song works. Even a few deep breaths can be magical. For those who want to try a more focused quieting, yoga, listening to calming music or mindfulness meditation can be very effective.

Listening to a focused meditation designed specifically to inspire your journal writing can be particularly powerful. These meditations often use a visualization activity — taking your mind on a journey and guiding you to write based on the inspiration you glimpsed. Such visualizations can take you back or forward in time to see things from a different perspective, help you call forward the people present in your life today, or influencers from the past to inspire new lessons in your life, or use vivid imagery to help your brain see the bigger themes, symbols and insights we’re sometimes too busy to take in.

I’ve recently begun recording some of my students’ favorite journal meditations on a free app called Insight Timer. I hope you’ll join me there next time you need some special inspiration for your journal writing. You can even revisit this blog post as audio on Insight Timer.

Until then, give yourself at least three deep breaths each time you interact with your journal. You’ll see a difference in your writing!

 

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels.