Pagan Blog Project Week 11: J is for Journaling.
A lot of people who are in the professional business of giving advice will tell their clients, and almost make it a recommendation to anyone, to keep a journal. I am not a professional advice-giver (not technically anyway) but I would agree that keeping a journal is vitally important to personal growth. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to lose weight, get to the bottom of emotional or psychological problems, or become an ascended master magician: these journeys will benefit from keeping a journal. This isn’t some psycho-spiritual babble: there’s a real hands on REASON. For clarity I’m going to use the weight loss example. One of the biggest issues in real weight loss and a program of getting healthy and staying that way is being honest with yourself about what, how much, when, how, and why you are eating. Most people don’t pay much attention to food and that can sometimes cause weight problems. Just the act of recording what we ate (preferably before/while doing the eating to avoid any unintentional or intentional acts of self-deception). If you force yourself to be mindful of your food intake, you might actually re-consider that second candy bar because you realize you’re not actually hungry you maybe just wanted a break. Also, that gets to another point of food journals: to find patterns in eating habits that might be triggered by emotional issues: stress, boredom, comfort eating – whatever. Without the food journal, these patterns are very difficult to identify and often times those of us (myself included here) will become defensive when someone tries to help us realize what’s really going on with our behavior. It’s normal and perfectly natural. The food journal is a place for us to come face to face with our behavior and emotional undercurrents with food or anything else. As such, journal are an important part of any kind of self-improvement because there’s our behavior in our own words, the reactions we got from other people, the emotional reasons behind what we did, and the overall outcome.
Journals certainly are biased towards ourselves usually, but the value can come from re-reading them to find patterns in behavior or thinking that are unhelpful or downright destructive. When we become aware of the patterns, we can try to be aware and stop ourselves in the act: as well as record the results of different solutions to find what will be best for our lives. I think journals can be especially helpful for people who have trouble empathizing and issues with thinking through the consequences of their actions. I have found journaling to be especially helpful in my issues with weight, eating disorders, and body image.
Any kind of spiritual or magical path is about self-improvement. Journaling is equally important to our magical and spiritual lives. The first “spiritual journal” I kept was a requirement during a yoga retreat. At the time, I was skeptical and didn’t think I’d have anything to write at all never mind that this is a practice I’d end up keeping in my life. However, by the end of that two-week period I had written up half the journal I bought for the occasion and had a new understanding of myself. I keep a separate journal for magic, divination, dreams, and general spiritual things from my regular journal. This just helps me find things easier. My journal is not necessarily a “book of shadows” or a grimoire, it’s just my own personal reflections on spiritual ideas and experiences. There might be the odd description of a ritual (especially those I’ve attended in groups) or spell, but it’s mostly my thoughts, feelings, and impressions. Reading through the journal I can see my spiritual development-which is kind of cool. It’s also helpful for me to keep track of my feelings, premonitions, and what have you. I can look at the patterns in my journal and use them to keep improving on my own spiritual and magical goals.
Does anyone else keep a journal? If so have you found it helpful? Do you ever re-read entries?