On February 14, 1884, Theodore Roosevelt received a terrible blow - both his wife and his mother had died within hours of one another in the Roosevelt house in New York City. His mother, age 50, succumbed to typhus, and his wife Alice died at the age of 22 giving birth to her namesake. The diary entries lovingly describe his courtship, wedding, happiness in marriage, and his grief over the death of his wife, after which he never spoke of the union again. Roosevelt's seven surviving diaries provide a unique insight into the inner man.
Many of us document transitional periods of adversity, insight or revelation while experiencing spiritual crisis, divorce, illness, depression or grief. Journaling is one of the most satisfying methods of working through difficult times in our lives. Not only does it provide relief in the present moment but there is something uniquely magical and profound in periodically retracing the steps of our personal or spiritual growth through insights we have documented in troubled times.
Format: The Transition Journal
Crisis comes to us in a myriad of forms. Equally varied are the attitudes and strategies we employ to survive them. Divorce or the breakup of significant relationships, the death of a loved one, illness or depression are all emotional and physical states that can be relived or relieved by the process of writing.
Begin by choosing a writing instrument and journal that you find comforting and beautiful; a gift to yourself. Write as though you were speaking to your best friend, yourself, in the most loving and reverential terms. Write to seek solace and comfort. Write to reveal tendencies toward self-pity, revenge and despair, so that having identified these kinds of feelings you can leave them on the page, attempting to lessen unleashed emotions that upset yourself and loved ones.
This type of writing is often deeply private. Arrange to secure your journal so that children or family members who might be alarmed by descriptions of your deepest fears or feelings don’t inappropriately read it. You should feel free to write whatever comes to mind without worrying about editing your inner voice, the most useful and critical guide at hand in times of adversity. If what you write surprises and alarms you, trust yourself to decide to seek outside help and guidance, knowing that your writing is your ally and may be extremely important in a therapeutic or medical situation. If this is the case, you may wish to include notes on your meetings with physicians, therapists and other health practitioners.
Time changes everything. Gradually, the intensity and acuteness of your writing will fade, until the pressing emotional needs of your transition had lead you to a different phase of your life, hopefully, one in which writing is still essential but for different, more joyful purposes..
Format: The Metaphysical Chronicle
Are you utilizing a metaphysical approach to self-discovery, such as the study and application of astrology, tarot or I Ching? In this case you may wish to create a formal system of entries that can be organized by calendar date, symbol, card or sign, indexed for easy reference. Journaling also applies to those practicing yoga, meditation or martial arts, providing a place to comment or record their process.
Less formal metaphysical approaches might include a daily gratitude journal or daily affirmations manifested in writing.
We suggest a large format journal for this purpose. Choose one with large pages, big enough for drawing, pasting and replication of card layouts, diagrams and characters. Important allegorical information or commentary on your response to readings or practices should also be included. This kind of writing work documents historical perceptions of our personal life processes and references what meaning we derived at different phases and times.
Format: The Religious Practice Companion Journal
Many people of different religious denominations, making a study of their chosen religious texts, enjoy keeping a companion journal in which to copy inspirational text for the day or express spiritual inspiration in their own words. This may come in the form of enlightened perceptions, spiritual home- work, personal prayers or thoughts concerning issues or loved ones we are praying for.
For those fortunate to experience feelings of deep spiritual bliss or connection and seek to describe their experience in writing, reference the works of Thomas Merton, Thich Nhat Hanh, Krishamurti, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Theresa of Avila, Jalal ad-Din Rumi, or Hildegard von Bingen.
Journal size and format will vary widely depending on how it is used. Ask yourself if this journal will reside in an everyday study spot or will you prefer to carry with you? Will it be dated or lined for a majority of referenced text or blank sheets for musing, personal commentary and drawing? As always, chose a journal that you love the look and feel of and that inspires you to write.