Writing as a Journey Towards Awakening

By Dr Angel Adams and Dr Patricia Papciak

“Writing is a way to wake oneself up and keep as alive

as when one has just fallen in love.”

-Pico Iyer-

Painting by Vermeer, 1665Vermeer, 1665

We have previously written about mindfulness by naming our days, as a metaphor to help us become more conscious of our natural surroundings and ways to create intimacy in relationships. In this way, we can decrease our distraction by consuming thoughts and increase the bodily “felt self” of the wonder and mystery of life in the present moment.  Now it is time to offer some ways to pay attention to you, in a way that can bring insight, connection, and genuine self-love.  We include two powerful methods: writing and meditation practice. We start this week with writing, a way to meet with yourself authentically again and again. Writing down what you are doing, thinking or feeling in the day is a way to help yourself remember the events and your experiences of the day. When you do this, it encourages you to think more clearly about what it was that triggered various feelings of delight and inspiration, or sometimes anger and unhappiness.

Writing can be an unpleasant activity, as it is a self-reflective practice, but the benefit far outweighs the uncomfortableness. It is a quiet, deep and inward journey when you are thinking about memories and joyful moments. It is cathartic and healing if you need to vent feelings of frustration, sadness, loss or disappointment. It is especially enjoyable and useful to have written descriptions of your days when you are trying to recall how you responded to something, or you want to remember specific events and special times.

You could start by buying yourself a special book to do this journalling process. You might think of it in a similar way when you were young and wanted to write your thoughts in a secret diary. If I recall there was a little key to my diary when I was a teenager so that I could be certain no one was perusing my most secret thoughts. You might want to encourage your children to have their own little books as an outlet for their feelings and let them know that you will never invade their privacy by reading their personal information without there permission. This may encourage them to continue writing when they are grown men and woman.

Sometimes children and adolescents are encouraged to write about themselves in school. Often, they might be asked to make a project or do an assignment that involves writing about their lives, and they usually enjoy doing these projects. As a parent, you might encourage your child to express their emotions in writing if they can. You might also encourage them to share with you something they have written, if they are willing, as writing can be very personal.

Of course, your response to their writing needs to be non-judgemental or they will not want to share with you again. You could read to them something appropriate that you have written. In this way they may feel inspired to read something to you and enjoy the exchange of emotions that perhaps isn’t expressed in everyday life. Writing letters to people we know is another form of journalling. Writing imaginary letters is also one way to help you or young people reflect and allow the emotion that perhaps is not so easily expressed verbally. The video below shows an example of this teacher’s approach to writing and the powerful response of his students.

You might also want to buy a particular pen for your journal, just for the pleasure of making it special. Finding a special time for writing is important, as well as a special place to write, or a favourite chair to sit in.  You can create your ideal environment that will inspire and encourage you or your child to pick up that pen and write. It can flourish into a meaningful daily ritual.

One of the difficult things about writing often is that sometimes it may feel like a burden. We don’t want to feel like it is a chore that we have to do it, thus putting one more thing on our list of have-tos in a day.  So relieve yourself from that pressure. You might want to simply make a commitment to yourself that that you will write in your journal at least once a week, but it doesn’t matter.

I (Dr Papciak) have kept my journal for over 35 years and there are a few times when I have gone several months without writing. But I keep my journal with a pen, near my bed, so that I’m aware of its presence and can pick it up easily. Sometimes I like just looking at the book, then when I get in bed, too tired to write, I still enjoy going over the day in my mind. Sometimes I’m inspired to turn the light back on and write something down so that I don’t forget it.  Sometimes you may wake up and record a dream that felt significant to you.

As a teacher in a high school environment, my students were often unhappy when I asked them to write because they said they couldn’t think of anything to write. That happens, but then you just write anything and it will begin to flow. “Anything?” they asked. “Yes anything”, I responded. It could be what the room looks like, what they ate for dinner, how they felt right that minute. You will be surprised how it comes out once you take a little off the surface. You have to get under the surface to see how you are really feeling.

Some people like to keep a gratitude journal where they just write down their daily blessings and all they are thankful for. There is something magical about putting pen to paper. Just get started and all you have to do is keep your hand moving. Even if you just give yourself 5 minutes! Don’t let your mind be a critical editor, just let your hand move freely and allow whatever it is that comes out. You will like looking back after a week or a month or a year. Eventually you will have your own book! The word ‘history’ is really his/her “story”. When you journal, you are writing your own history, the unique story of you. Many people began writing a book by doing exactly that. Don’t make rules, just enjoy it, relax while you are doing it, focus on the things you want to think about that happened that day. You might even begin with our idea of naming your day so that you have a starting point.


© Christine Peloquin http://www.christinepeloquin.com

 

In writing about past events you may be able to feel them in a more self-observing way than when you were actually living them. The emotion of the past may be very upsetting, but it will also be cleansing and healing. It can help you to let go of those feelings that have been so bottled up. It can also help you to understand your feelings as you see them with a little distance and perspective. This practice will make you feel proud of yourself as you respect your own ability to write with courage and effort to look at your own life. You will see how you have grown over the years. Instead of being lost thoughts and in a trance, you can connect with that wise part of yourself and feel as though you have awakened to your true self!

We would like to end, firstly, with a beautiful excerpt from the journal of Henry David Thoreau , who captures a moment in nature in the spring of 1858:

“Each new year is a surprise to us. We find that we had virtually forgotten the note of each bird, and when we hear it again it is remembered like a dream, reminding us of a previous state of existence. How happens it that the associations it awakens are always pleasing, never saddening; reminiscences of our sanest hours? The voice of nature is always encouraging.”

Secondly, a paragraph from a letter (1of 600) written by Van Gogh to his beloved brother Theo in July of 1880.

“I think that everything that is really good and beautiful, the inner, moral, spiritual and sublime beauty in men and their works, comes from God. .. I cannot help thinking that the best way of knowing God is to love many things. Love this friend, this person, this thing, whatever you like, and you will be on the right road to understanding Him better, that is what I keep telling myself. But you must love with a sublime, genuine, profound sympathy, with devotion, with intelligence, and you must try all the time to understand Him more, better and yet more. That will lead to God, that will lead to an unshakeable faith.”


We invite and welcome any comments below about this important subject of writing as a way to self-awareness.

 

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