Journaling as a Spiritual Practice

Finding our Inner Guidelines for Action

In my last blog, “Opening to Transformations“, I explain that my new book Cracking Open: A Memoir of Struggling, Passages, and Transformations grew out of journaling that I did in my personal process of individuation. I always find it helpful in my own approach to inner work to remind myself that the root of “individuation” comes from the Latin word, individuus, which means “whole,” “undivided,” or, in other words, “not fragmented.” It speaks to me of my own journey into wholeness…beyond my “fragmented” parts.

For most of us, journaling usually begins with simply recording daily events and the feelings they evoke in us. As we become more at home with this process, it generally grows into musing, reflection, and self-examination – into seeking to know ourselves more completely. When we invest in it, the practice of journaling matures, and we discover and reclaim aspects of ourselves that we may have known at some level, and yet were unable to tap into consciously. Or, we may be surprised, as I was in Cracking Open, when I abandoned myself to the process that began with my journaling and let my muse take over. In my book, Sacred Selfishness, I have written a chapter on “Journaling as Inner Exploration.” I would like to share with you a short, 2+ minute video that I had made for a seminar to summarize this chapter.


Journaling to Wholeness
Journaling to Wholeness


I have found that committing myself to my journaling practice frees me from my attempt to “master” my life – to take control of my life. Taking control means to me using willpower to restrain my emotions, appearances, and actions to fit someone elseʼs or the cultureʼs ideal for who I should be and how I should live. Note the use of “should” here. In the individuation process, we are searching for our inner guidelines for putting ourselves and life into perspective. I have discovered that when I lighten up on the “power-oriented, take control” approach to life, I am much more able to turn to love and desire for motivation. I speak to this in Sacred Selfishness by writing:

“Self discipline then becomes self-commitment or self-discipleship and is energized by our desire to know and love ourselves and to experience life more fully. Let me give you a brief example of what I mean. If we feel like weʼre overweight, a feeling that often reflects social values, we may decide to go on a diet. In most cases, successful dieting depends on willpower. When we cheat or fail, we feel guilty and weak. A person seeking to know themselves, however, might choose to journal or reflect on what theyʼre feeling whenever they catch themselves wanting to eat. In this way, they may learn to understand the meaning of their eating, and its place in their lives.”

In Cracking Open: A Memoir of Struggling, Passages, and Transformations, I share that my journal entries document key moments and phases in my individuation process. The book opens with some of my journal entries from 1994 where I am recording important moments in my religious and spiritual quests – to find meaning in these experiences. In the “Epilogue: 2015” of Cracking Open, I share:

“When I read over these journal entries today, I am uncomfortable with them. Something about them seems not quite right. Perhaps I feel that they are a little too detached, a bit too oriented from an observerʼs perspective. Maybe I was too one-sided in my approach to religion, too thinking, too conceptual. Maybe I was not honoring our religious urge as one of our great instincts. Iʼm not sure. But over the years, Iʼve found these ideas have been valuable to me. I see the seeds of my book Sacred Selfishness in them. They were nurtured by the monk from my dream, whom I let into my life as a companion, teacher, and mentor through active imagination. I can trace other lectures to these reflections, and even sense new ones evolving.

“In time, journaling, as an ongoing practice, helped me realize that to be alive, our religion, our spirituality, and even Jungian psychology must be lived. Living gives us the opportunity to create and find meaning, and our spiritual quest is to become whole, fully alive, and fully human. God lives in our flesh-and-blood experiences.”

Cracking Open: A Memoir of Struggling, Passages, and Transformations reveals profound moments in my life when it took a breakdown or a breakthrough to initiate my struggles to heal myself and to build the knowledge of who I really am. As the book draws to a close, you can understand how one of the most important functions of an analyst, or a book like this one, is to encourage us to step outside of our conventional, day-to-day mindsets and look carefully and conscientiously, with genuine regard, into all of the aspects of our lives.

Journaling is a profound way to help us find our own voice. It provides the assurance that the creativity, values, and ideals that arise from inside of us are true gifts we can continue to nurture and develop. And when we have found out how to listen to ourselves, we are then able to act with strength and purpose, greet the world with joy, and share our gifts with others.

Categories: Articles by Drs. Bud and Massimilla Harris, Book Excerpts and Resources, Videos

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