I first began keeping a journal when I was about eight years old. Fueled by a desire to capture my thoughts and a growing obsession with the Brontë sisters, I began what was to become a lifelong habit. Regularly scribbling my thoughts into notebook after notebook. Pen and paper became needle and thread, carefully stitching together the fabric of my life. A mirror reflecting back with sharp clarity the lines and imperfections, the wear and tear of a life lived.
In Life Path: Personal and Spiritual Growth Through Journal Writing, Luci Shaw draws us into the art of journal writing as a tool for personal and spiritual growth. Journeying through a difficult period of grief and loss was for Shaw a catalyst that shifted journaling from optional to necessity. She writes:
” … to retain the significance of the events I learned I had to write them down and reflect on them. I didn’t want all that I was living and learning to be lost in the blur of those crowded, emotion filled days. I wanted to remember because I sensed the importance of those transitions. That was when, that was why, I became a journal writer.”
For Shaw, journaling is an essential tool for navigating the path of our lives. By charting as we go we are able to look back on where we have been with greater clarity. When we journal regularly we become more attuned to the rhythm and movement of our lives. When we come to the page and life seeps out, bleeding black and blue on white, we feel each moments weight, allowing them to bruise and heal. The gentle fingerprints of God become magnified as our experiences find form in words.
Life Path explores every aspect of keeping a journal. From practical considerations like how to choose a book and pen that will work best for your needs, to thoughtful exploration of the process of writing. Exercises for sharpening ones perception and inspiring reflective writing are also littered throughout. Life Path is a treasure trove of resources for both novice and dedicated expert. This book is less about ‘how to’ and more about inspiring the reader to ‘go write!’ As Shaw advocates, journaling itself is the best teacher.
Some caution and encouragement to the weary and heavy laden. I was chatting with a friend a few weeks ago about the books coming up in Red Couch, and this was the book that appealed least to her. Why? Because while it would provide great insight and inspiration, she also felt it would leave her feeling guilty about not writing enough. I completely understand this feeling.
There is a tendency when people talk about tools for personal development and spiritual growth to generalize that everyone can find the time if they look/try hard enough. This is a burden that can sit heavily on the shoulders. I find Shaw’s claim here, along with those of others unhelpful.
Spiritual practices like journaling can be wonderful and life giving, but they become guilt laden when we feel like we should be able to do or achieve more. We are all living through different seasons, our limits and capacities are varied. Journaling can prove equally worthwhile in seasons where we record one or two sentences every three days, as it can when we are able to devote 10-20 minutes each day. There is gold worth mining in the pages of Life Path. Whatever season you find yourself in, hold its insights gently, and don’t let guilt keep you from finding them.
Regardless of pace, quality or quantity, lets read and write together this month. Let’s chart the journey together and hunt for the fingerprints of the one who is guiding us home.
Come back Wednesday, May 25 for our discussion post. Join the Facebook group to discuss the book throughout the month.
Our July book is I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb.
Journal Keeping: Writing for Spiritual Growth– Luann Budd
The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom– Christine Valters Paintner
A Circle of Quiet– Madeleine L’Engle
The Genesee Diary– Henri Nouwen
How I Use My Bullet Journal– Tsh Oxenreider
My First Week with the Bullet Journal– Modern Mrs Darcy
*Recommended by Annie Rim, Sarah Caldwell, Melissa Powell
Are you reading Life Path with us? Share your thoughts so far in the comments.