Would you like to take a look inside my private journal and see one of the most profoundly impactful entries I ever wrote?
That's exactly what you'll find here.
As I mentioned in a recent blog post, my hope is that it will help you when I share examples like this.
For one, it's an opportunity to (re)learn life lessons along with me as I name them for myself in my journal.
(The ultimate lesson at the end of this entry is simple but profound — and it's one I think we all need to be reminded of often.)
But just as important is this...
Journaling has been so huge for me. It's the tool / practice that has had the biggest impact in my personal, professional, and spiritual development. So I want to help YOU learn how to use it this way too.
And I think examples help.
So with that, let's get to the good stuff...
About This Journal Entry
(some helpful context)
I wrote this entry at one of the monthly group journaling sessions I facilitate at the Innerwork Center here in Richmond, Virginia. (See my workshops page if you're interested in attending one of these sessions.)
Although I choose a different topic for each session, we always follow the same basic structure:
- Clarifying the focus / intention for the experience
- Centering ourselves with a brief check-in and meditation
- A 10-minute "warm up" write
- A 20-minute "deep dive" write
- Reflection and optional sharing
- Closing meditation, ritual, and/or poem
The theme for this particular session was "A Spiritual Check-Up." It was playfully modeled on a visit to the doctor — except here our *spiritual* health was under examination, and we "met" with a spiritual guide on the pages of our journals.
"A Spiritual Check-Up"
(my journaling experience & entry)
Establishing the Focus & Intention
This journaling experience was an opportunity to investigate the state of our spiritual lives — and to leverage our inner wisdom to take it to the next level.
As we began, we formed an intention to set aside judgment and instead approach the experience from a place of peace, openness, and receptiveness.
In this group, we begin each journaling session with the same brief check-in...
Each person around the circle shares a word or phrase that describes her/his state of being in that moment.
In a sense, this check-in is a centering exercise. It's an opportunity to stop rushing about and to reconnect with ourselves — often for the first time in hours.
The check-in was followed (as it always is) by a formal "centering" exercise.
In this case, it was a guided imagery meditation about the experience of feeling spiritually supported. At the end of the meditation, each person chose a spiritual guide (real or imaginary) to "meet with" in their journal.
For the 10-minute warm-up write, we made a list of things we wanted to discuss with the spiritual guide we would "meet with" in our journals.
The list could include spiritual aspirations, questions, concerns, etc. You can see my list transcribed below. But first...
You'll notice some weird words in parentheses in my list. Here's what's up with that...
Continuing with the doctor's visit theme, we had the option of flipping through a "waiting room" magazine and using the pictures to trigger ideas about what we might want to discuss with our guide. The words in parentheses are the images I spotted that prompted me to add that particular question or issue to my list.
Here's the list I made for myself...
- Feeling scattered — too many paths. (spiderweb)
- What leads to free & natural being? (horse)
- What is separating me from the Sacred? From sources of "light" in my life? (greenhouse)
- Seeds I want to plant in this world? (seed packet)
- How to take myself and life less seriously? (being like Pooh, like child with watermelon)
- Where is this path leading me? (footsteps in snow)
- What at my core most needs to be expressed? (daffodil with yellow center)
- What am I reaching toward? (branch with flowers on it)
- What's inside when you cut me open? Essential substance at my core? (cake)
- Gems of wisdom from my past experiences (diamond)
It's an interesting experience for me, reading back through this list.
Each question is really a kind of shorthand for existential themes that have been present in my life for decades. While the language I use may change, these same basic themes come up in my journaling again and again — and I'm sure will continue to do so.
Reflecting on them now, though — a few years after writing the list — I'm struck by how far I've come in living out my answers to the questions.
But more on that later. Now, on to the "deep dive"...
Below is the 20-minute write that followed the above warm-up.
Here, we wrote in the voice of the spiritual guide we had selected — providing sage advice in response to the questions and issues on our list.
Since I was leading the guided imagery and couldn't fully participate in that experience to select my guide, I had defaulted to my old standby — inviting a much older, wiser version of myself to join me on the pages of my journal.
Here's what she had to say...
Elaine, my child, you have glimpses often of what your life could be, but then you run after the wrong things.
Think about your experiences of last night — I was there, watching. Remember the promise of contemplating two months of nightly ritual and reflection around the practice of counting the Omer?
Remember, still more powerful, the actual experience of reading M.F.K. Fisher’s profound words about beauty in life’s mundane experiences? Remember being so moved by her remarks about what is unsaid hanging there on the page, saying worlds about who you are and what matters to you?
You know from your own past experience that it is in truly slowing down to observe the wonder of each experience that you connect most profoundly to That Which Is Eternal. The wonder comes in the form of simple beauty, in the mere vibrating resonance of “now”, in deep connection with and compassion for others. It is the mindful now-ness that reveals what was always there and that you have been yearning for.
The process stuff you get obsessed with, the career goals you work relentlessly toward, the expectations you compulsively try to meet — these things are distractions. It’s not that you shouldn’t do them, but that your attention shouldn’t rest on them but instead on what is beneath them, beyond them, behind them.
To use M.F.K. Fisher's metaphor, they are letters on a page, simple shapes. Don’t get wrapped up in the shapes. Look beyond them to the message, the meaning and — as she suggested — to what cannot be written.
You discounted the Chrysalis Spiritual Paths program as one more obligation — a time sink you can’t afford. But what are you investing in? Not the things that connect you to The Inexpressible. Not regularly. And that’s where you should invest.
"What are you investing in?"
It's a question we should all ask ourselves from time to time.
The impact of asking myself that question on that evening turned out to be huge. I'll share a bit about that below.
But first, here's how this "Spiritual Check-Up" journaling experience came to a close...
Reflection & Closing Ritual
After doing the above "deep-dive" write, we each spent a few minutes reading silently over what we had written.
And then — as we always do at these monthly journaling sessions — we passed a "talking stick" around the circle, so those who wanted to could speak a bit about their journaling experience or insights.
We closed out the evening with a silent reflection and an opportunity for one last quick write...
On a small slip of paper, we each wrote out a "prescription" for ourselves for enhancing our spiritual health.
No big surprise here...
My prescription for myself involved doing more journaling. 🙂
The Impact of This Experience
(what changed for me)
It's funny. When I look at the words that I wrote in my journal that night, they're just a faint echo of the profound experience I was having.
(This is actually a REALLY important point — which I'll talk about in my upcoming guide to transformational journaling.)
But in a way, this journal entry changed my life.
That final question — "What are you investing in?" — it stuck with me for a long time. It was constantly going through my head, impacting me as I made little every day choices.
I started being a lot more intentional about where I was investing my time, energy, attention, and even my money.
Not just in a spiritual sense, even though that was the focus of this journaling experience. I also saw changes in other areas of my life — such as work, self-care, and relationships.
And in the same way that financial investments can multiply over time, so did my investments of time, energy, and attention.
I'm still benefitting tremendously from the choices I made 3 years ago as a result of writing this entry.
Was this journaling experience a lightening flash that came out of nowhere?
No. Some subtle shifts were already starting to occur because of other small things I was doing.
But this write was an accelerator that took those little sparks and turned them into a gorgeous and powerful bonfire.
Did it fix all my problems in life once and for all?
That would sure be nice! But... Nope again.
I'm still human and fallible. I still make unwise choices from time to time. I still can't control everything that happens to me. I still need to practice on a regular basis if I hope to keep myself aligned with (and investing in) what matters most.
But here's the thing...
My life is so different now than it was then — more authentic, meaningful, and full of promise.
And I can trace it all back to what this journal entry kicked off for me.
Do It Yourself
(how to recreate this experience on your own)
Want to recreate this experience for yourself?
Use the instructions and prompts below to guide you through this process...
Journaling Instructions & Prompts:
- Prepare Your Journal: Open to a fresh page in your journal. Put today's date at the top, along with the title "Spiritual Check-Up".
- Check In With Yourself: Take a couple slow, centering breaths. And then tune in to yourself. Notice how you're feeling in this moment. Write down 1-3 words or phrases that describe what you're noticing as you make contact with your whole self — mind and body, heart and soul.
- Set Your Intention: How do you want to approach this writing experience? What will you give your attention to? My intention when I wrote the above was to investigate the quality of my spiritual life, to contemplate opportunities to deepen it further, and to do all this with openness and curiosity rather than judging myself and my life. Take a moment now to consider the wisest way for YOU to orient toward this experience.
- Center Yourself: Still yourself, cultivate a feeling of being spiritually supported, and then select a real or imaginary spiritual guide to "meet with" through your writing.
- Warm Up With a List: Set a timer for 10 minutes, then make a list of spiritual aspirations, questions, concerns, or issues that you might want to bring to the spiritual guide you chose. Keep in mind that you're only brainstorming here. Just because something goes on your list doesn't mean you have to do anything further with it. Stop writing when the timer goes off. (Optional: If you want, flip through a magazine with lots of pictures — as if you're in a waiting room. As you're doing this, notice when you especially respond to an image. When this happens, pause and consider whether the picture could serve as a metaphor for something you might want to discuss with your guide. If so, write it down.)
- Do Your Deep-Dive: Set a timer for 20 minutes, and begin writing in the voice of the spiritual guide you selected. Imagine that they've seen your warm-up list, and allow your pen to record their wise response. Don't over-think this. Keep your pen moving, and let go of any concerns about correct grammar, spelling, logic, etc. If you need to interrupt from time to time in your own voice to pose a question to your guide, that's just fine. Stop writing when the timer goes off.
- Read & Reflect: Read back over what you've written — from your check-in words/phrases all the way through your deep-dive write. Then add a few final sentences or bullet points in response, starting with the words, "What's standing out for me is..."
- Write Your Prescription: Take another 2-3 minutes to close your eyes, take some centering breaths, and relax your body. Then ask yourself, "What would be the wisest possible prescription for enhancing my spiritual health?" Write your prescription for yourself at the bottom of your entry. (Or if it works better for you, let your guide again be the one to write.) If you want to get fancy, draw a box around it and turn it into an official looking prescription slip by signing and dating it!
I hope you have a lovely time with this, dear one!
If you try it out, let me know how it goes!
You can share your experience on social media (click the icons). Or drop me a line via my contact page if you'd like to email me privately.