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"The unexamined life is not worth living" (Socrates).
Journaling helps me examine my life and provides a peaceful daily ritual for me. In this blog, I’m going to tell you about why I journal and three reasons why you should journal too.
But first, a couple of side notes:
First, we can all agree that faithfully writing in a journal can make one a better writer, a better storyteller, and a better thinker.
Second, what style of journal you write in is your preference. I've come to learn that my favorite journal is the Moleskin-lined one. I love them. They are attractive, well-made, and durable.
Okay. Preliminaries out of the way. Here’s what made me pick up a notebook and pen, to begin with.
The reason I started journaling was because Thomas Merton did. He was a Trappist monk famous for his published journals, all of which I have in my library.
I aspired to be like Merton not only because he changed my life through his spiritual writing but because, for me and many others, he exemplifies the height of human spiritual progress.
Now, let’s get to the benefits that I think are the most important.
One of the basic benefits of keeping a journal is that you are documenting your life. I have journals that go way back to 1987. They all fill a couple of huge boxes. I can go back and read about what was happening and how I was experiencing and processing it decades ago.
For example, I can go back to the day of my ordination into the Christian ministry – that’s the first entry – or I could read about the days our three kids were born. Or when Lisa and I went on a certain vacation. Or when a certain tragedy happened. I can relive every one of these moments again and again.
I can also go back to the notes I’ve taken from books I’ve read. When I read a book, if I come across a really good line or section, I record it in my journal. I may also add my thoughts. This has become very useful so many times in my life.
Sometimes I think to myself… just imagine if you entered all this into a software program. I could search for quotes, moments, and memories. Or maybe even publish the best bits of my notebooks as an autobiography!
When you record your life in a notebook, you are creating an actual document of your life.
If you are interested in your personal growth, then journaling is a necessary exercise. I can read back years ago in my spiritual life and see where I was and where I am now.
The funny thing is, most often, I have the shocking realization that I haven’t changed that much. I’m still basically the same guy!
On the other hand, I can see some kind of progress, development, or growth. I’m not sure what to call it now because I’ve concluded that growth isn’t linear or in stages.
I believe growth is spatial in that we expand to become larger in spirit. Therefore, we do not reject our former selves or lives or even our darkness, our shadows. Somehow, in healthy growth, all that has gone before or all that is uncovered gets folded in to integrate with who we are becoming… our most authentic selves.
I wouldn’t have come to this realization if I hadn’t journaled. This leads me to my next point.
This is the most important fruit that journaling bears.
As I noted above, I wouldn’t have realized how personal and spiritual growth works if it wasn’t for journaling.
So, instead of me naïvely and proudly thinking that I have somehow made significant progress and become someone different, a new and improved me, I can see that, on a more complex level, I have become a little deeper and, therefore, wiser. I’ve become a little stretched and, therefore, more spacious and a little more empathetic and compassionate.
Do you see?
You will learn, through journaling, that you are the main character in your story. And as good main characters demonstrate, you will learn that you are a very complex person, deep and wise in your way, and even more compassionate because you are aware… aware of your surroundings and yourself.
(Click on the cartoon for a digital download or click HERE!)
Those are the three reasons I think you should start journaling: to preserve your memories, to track your progress, and to become more self-aware. I hope that journaling gives you everything you need to examine and then embrace the life ahead of and behind you.
Do you journal already? I would love to know if it’s helped you.
If not, when are you going to start?