Last Monday was about types of journals. I mentioned my favorite type of journal is a spiritual journey journal. Today we are going to dive into journaling for spiritual and inner growth.
Last week I mentioned the shadow self. That will most likely become its own post topic at some point, but today we’re sticking to the basic definition of the shadow self. It is a term that comes from Carl Jung’s philosophy of self. Basically it’s the unknown side of your personality. Often times this is considered “dark” or “negative” or “evil”, but it’s not something with judgment.
Here’s an example:
I asked myself “How do you see yourself?” Pretty good question. My answer was that I see myself without defined borders and that I like that about me. It allows me to shift easily into other people’s shoes. It’s part of the gifting of Empathy. However, as I wrote I realized I also tended to not have strong self identity as a young woman because I see myself without borders. Being strong in Empathy is a good thing. However, living life without any real identity is not a healthy way to live, but it is not in itself “wrong” or “dark” or “evil”. Once I realized that the flip side to my empathy was not having a strong sense of self, I began examining that further.
What was in darkness was my awareness of the truth. It was undiscovered. By bringing that portion of myself into the light healing and balance began to take place. I’m still just as empathetic. I also have a strong sense of self and boundaries. Jung said:
One does not become enlightened by imaging figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious
This is the concept of a spiritual growth journal. It’s not meant as a judgement. It is meant as a way of exploring your inner landscape and bringing the inner workings, or unconscious into the light. It is a way of discovering the truth about who you really are, what needs addressing, and ultimately accepting yourself with graceful kindness. This is also a wonderful way to explore your spiritual practice to gain greater integrity.
So, how do we do this? Glad you asked! Because there are a varieties of ways!
Reflection on Life
One way to discover your undiscovered inner country is to write about your life on a daily basis. That includes your feelings. An entry could be:
“Today some idiot cut me off in traffic. I hate it when people just walk over me like that. It makes me so angry I could just spit nails and stomp my foot!”
Then take things to a reflection. Why does this situation make me angry? What does my reaction state about myself? Did something more happen that triggered the reaction based on past experiences? Is there something within myself that I don’t like or accept or acknowledge that is a similar action or attitude? Am I treating other people in a way I don’t want to be treated? What assumptions am I making about the other driver? Is there another feeling or emotion that I use anger as a mask to cover up? What do I really feel?
These are probing, deep digging questions that help you understand yourself, your reactions, and hopefully begin a process of healing.
Letters from Your Future Self
Rough day? Rough year? Dealing with you inner crud and feeling overwhelmed? This method might be your journaling jam. Imagine yourself as a fully aware, fully mature, wise person who has mastered the major lessons of life writing you a letter about what you are going through right here, right now. Embrace that compassion, that wisdom, that grace, that acceptance, that unconditional love. What would that future self say to you? Imagine the person you want to become writing to you. Write that letter to yourself. By embracing those aspects of who you wish to become you begin to become that person.
Random Free Writing
Pick up the pen or pencil and just start writing. Don’t think. Don’t analyze. Just write. What ever is in your heart and mind just let it pour out. Turn off the brain and just let go and let the words flow. If you’re dealing with something unconsciously, it will come out!
I use to have very vivid dreams. Lots and lots of vivid dreams and horrific night mares. They were exhausting. They were so strong I would flash back to my dreams while awake. My subconscious shadow self was screaming for some attention. Dreams are a very common way for the shadow self to communicate inner needs to our waking minds.
By keeping a dream journal a record and pattern of the subconscious begins to take shape. Dreaming about being left? About running out of time? Teeth falling out? Being assaulted? A faceless hero or lover? Floating or flying? Write it down. Exam it. What is your shadow trying to tell you? What are you ignoring? Was this eating too many Fritos with hot sauce and peanut butter before bed or do you have a genuine issue that needs addressing? Figure out your patterns. Write about them. Accept your inner voice and be thankful for that wisdom.
- I want to take a quick aside – if you have PTSD or have had trauma and are experiencing nightmares, please seek professional counseling. I lived for twenty years “holding the line”, pretending it was okay. You do not need to bear this burden, especially alone. This is a wound and it CAN HEAL. It’s never too late as long as you are still breathing. Life can be good again. It really can.
Books as Prompts
For the bibliophile this is a wonderful way to explore the inner world through journaling. Read a book. Then write about what you read. But don’t write from a technical aspect. Write down how you feel or what you think. Does what you read evoke anger, fear, joy, peace? Why?
You can do this with novels, self help books, philosophy books, how to’s, or any other writings. Using the Bible or another religious text is a very popular self discovery tool. If you are using religious text, it can help to extend your journal into a prayer journal.
You’ll notice I haven’t spoken overtly about “spiritual” journaling vs. “inner growth” journaling. That’s because I believe that anything that brings us into greater alignment with inner health and wellness will ultimately bring us into greater spiritual growth and alignment. When you get down to it, it’s all spiritual because we can no more divorce our spiritual selves from the rest of our soul than we can divorce the need for nourishment from our physical bodies. Friend, I hope you explore your shadow, your inner self. The Christian Scripture says,
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 1 Corinthians 13:11
The verse is talking about knowing God. But I’ve always thought it is talking about knowing ourselves as well. It is a life long journey. It’s one that never ends. But it is one so worth taking.
Be Well and at Peace,