Monday, February 03, 2020

What is Journaling?

Previously: What is the Examen?What is Lectio Divina?What is Fasting?What is the Labyrinth?What is the Liturgical Calendar?What is Body Prayer?, What is Confession?

I have been regularly journaling for almost 20 years. There have been breaks here and there, but it has been my most consistent spiritual practice, and I value it greatly.

As with many other practices, journaling can seem very intimidating to those wanting to establish it for themselves. For any practice to become worthwhile, meaningful, and transforming to the person observing it, one needs to do it consistently. This may mean a few times a week at minimum, and at best it would mean every day.

The frequency may seem daunting in itself. But beyond that comes the question of what to write about. The answer to that varies from person to person. For some, it may come more in the form of recapping one's day, with an eye toward where God may have been in the midst of what happened. For others, it may be more of a reflection on thoughts and feelings, with a prayerful hope that writing them out may lead to new developments in what the mean. For others, it may serve as more of a reflection on one's prayer time, such as insights from another prayer practice or thoughts inspired by a book or other resource.

If you have taken on some other prayer practice and wish to incorporate journaling into your reflecting, you might ask questions like these:
  1. How did I feel during this time of prayer? Was I in tune with myself and with God, or was I feeling disturbed in some way? Did the time pass quickly or did I struggle to stay focused?
  2. Did anything strike me about what I was using as a prayer focus? Was there anything in the scripture passage, meditation guide, etc. that stood out in some way? Was there anything that caused a negative or positive reaction within me?
  3. Can I make any connections between what has come up in my prayer and what is happening in my life, or in the life of the world in which I live?
  4. Did the prayer leave me enlightened or challenged in any particular way?
  5. What was the most significant aspect of my prayer time? For what am I thankful to God? Is there something I would like to carry with me into my day? Is there something lingering that I should revisit during my next prayer time or talk to a spiritual companion about?
You may be approaching the practice of journaling separately from another practice, and you may feel stuck as to what to write on a particular day. In this case you might use prompts like these:
  • Begin your writing with a personal greeting like, “Dear God” or “Dear Jesus” and remember you are sharing your reflection with a listener who is never critical.
  • Be open and honest knowing that no one will ever see the contents of your journal besides you and God.
  • Forget about the rules of spelling, grammar, etc. Let the words flow freely as possible.
  • Begin by telling God how you are presently feeling and how your prayer time was.
  • Continue in a stream of consciousness fashion, sharing your thoughts and insights about your prayer. If a scripture passage strikes you, write it down noting where it came from so that you can refer back to it at a later time.
  • Go over the previous entry or past day and share your thoughts, desires, fears, concerns, dreams, etc.
  • Express gratitude for the gifts of your prayer and life and express regret for your failings.
  • Close by asking God for any grace you might need.
Ultimately, there is no right way to journal and it does not have to be any particular length. Your journaling style is your own. It may take some experimentation to find what works best for you, and different seasons of your life may require different approaches.

(Many of the above prompts are from spiritual direction resources that I inherited via my spiritual direction program.)

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