On Journaling

There are many examples of spiritual journals. Great people the likes of St. Teresa, Gandhi, Thomas Merton, and Pope John XXIII have left us wonderful records of powerful spiritual journeys.

Given that most of us don’t aspire to such greatness, the task of keeping a journal can seem either frivolous or a waste of time. In fact, journaling can be a most helpful tool on our own journeys.

In the muddle of daily living, we may occasionally have some spiritual insights that risk getting lost if we don’t jot them down. Beyond that, a journal allows us a private place where we can explore these insights in greater depth or just wrestle with questions. In my own journal, I have one page titled Things I Know To Be True. There are only 3 items on the list but it reassures me that I have at least figured something out for myself!

Journals too can give us hope since they are a record of victories. For some years, I kept my journal from the months and weeks before I came into sobriety. It reassures me that the path was being laid out for me without my even knowing it at the time.

A journal can be a private place for you to work out relationship issues by writing angry letters that don’t get mailed. Some of these letters may also be to persons who have crossed over to the other side. Some of my own angry letters are to God.

A journal can be a private place where you nurture your creativity. We feel very vulnerable when we do something creative. As such, we often don’t try. You can begin to come to know your creative self in the privacy of your journal. Try sketching or writing a poem.

Finally, your journal can be a place for dreamwork. Dreams can be a rich source of guidance. Stay away from dream dictionaries. Instead read something like Robert Johnson’s Inner Work for guidance on the process of dreamwork.

No, your journal may never be published. But if it eases your spiritual travels a bit, I believe you’ll find it worthwhile.

TASK: Try journaling for one month. That should be enough to help you decide whether it is useful. Don’t get compulsive about it, i.e., “I HAVE to write every day.” Rather just go to that private place when you want or need to.

FURTHER READING: Pilgrim Souls edited by Amy Mandelker and Elizabeth Powers, provides a wonderful sampling of spiritual journals ranging from St. Augustine to Eldridge Cleaver to Flannery O’Conner.

You might also find my own Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography to be of help.


About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
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2 Responses to On Journaling

  1. Rose Mathews says:

    Once again – Thanks, Rich, for your timely is great! Just what I needed, right when I needed it!
    I started keeping a “diary” when I was 9 and then it became a journal when I was 19! I am going to try journaling again – one month at a time – and read your book!

  2. Susan Bass says:

    This is not from my journal but from the journal of Victor Frankl, written in 1946. I think that it is echoed in Dr. Patterson’s article, “Welcome Home Soldier”.

    You weigh on me, you whom I lost in death.
    You’ve given me the silent charge to live for you;
    So it is for me now to erase the debt of your extermination.
    Until I know that with each ray of sun
    You wish to warm me and to meet me;
    Until I see that in each blossoming tree
    There’s someone dead who wants to greet me;
    Until I hear that every bird’s song is your voice
    Sounding out to bless me and perhaps to say
    That you forgive me that I live.

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