Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Christina Baldwin's thoughts on journalling revisited

I read Baldwin's 1991 book, Life's Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Practice, shortly after it appeared. Scanning the introduction to this one, I was surprised to read that journalling as a writing practice was "not a thing" back then. But that changed, and Baldwin's career teaching journal-writing workshops took off.

Picking up this later volume, I was curious. How had her thinking on journal writing evolved? How had my practice changed since reading her work all those years ago? I've kept journals practically since I learned to write, but before reading Baldwin, the idea of applying a method never crossed my mind. This author says journals can be much more than a way of preserving travel memories or coping with sad times. Many journal writers today keep records of their inner thoughts in pursuit of self-discovery.

"There is a committee in the mind," says Baldwin, "and journal writing gives its members voices on the page." For her, journal writing is a response to "the challenge of learning responsibility," and that entails a commitment to "create a flexible, changing, updatable idea of what is in your power to control and manage." She connects questioning with responsibility, and calls it "a form of power which allows us to restructure our lives from the page outward."

Native Americans of the prairie tribes, she tells us, end their prayers with "All my relatives," and that includes "everything made of earth, air, fire and water." This is an expression of "their connectedness to life and their responsibility...a wide hoop inside which all life must be drawn in and considered."

In the same way, journal writing can serve as a way of reaching for this wide circle of connection. Alone with our journals, we can dialogue with "the greater intelligence" of our minds and even tap into the unified field of consciousness. Many writers report that they tap into this invisible source of information and "receive" or "download" the information they need for their stories.

This may sound weird, but we are told that "Writing for self-awareness implies the ability to increase awareness, and that means living at the edge of your current insight, choosing to ask for more insight." Even though asking is "risky, it is how human beings grow."

The world is changing around us at great speed and we need new insights. The only way out is in: we must look within ourselves to see what positive changes we are capable of. For those attracted by the idea of writing their way to new insight, journalling a great way to do so.

Over the past eight years, much of my own journalling energy has been subsumed into blogging. The discipline of expressing my evolving insights and perspectives in clear prose is a challenge that never seems to pall.

In 2005 Christina Baldwin published a book called Storycatcher, Making Sense of our Lives Through the Power and Practice of Story. It's a good resource for journallers interested in doing writing exercises designed for self-illumination.

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