What are the journals?
I have always wondered what is going on in my head, my body, and my surroundings. In response, I have undertaken a variety of exploratory and therapeutic adventures. One way or another, these experiences have all been educational. Some resulted in recognizable credentials – college degrees, jobs, publications, thank-you plaques, a bank account, one stable marriage – but most of these explorations must be lumped into the broad category of life experience.
Creating Journals for Seekers is my current journey of exploration. I am feeling wise enough and courageous enough to presume that they will be useful. They are guides to the inner you. Deliberately brief and straightforward, they are meant to help you clarify your intent, develop life skills, create something new, and step away from self-criticism and grief towards curiosity and serenity.
The Journals for Seekers are based on three fundamental aspects of human behavior – acting, thinking, and feeling, or, if you like, hands, head, and heart. The journals prompt you to ACT, taking small manageable steps, to THINK rationally upon the details of your situation and possible solutions, and to FEEL your instincts, gut feelings, passion, zeal, and spirituality.
1. The artistic merit of the journals is exceptional.
2. The clarity of content and instruction is immediately useful.
3. All journals call upon thinking, feeling, acting, that is, head, heart, hands.
4. All are bite-sized. 5”x 8”, 40 to 120 pages.
5. The journals are useful.
The journals are about the customer, not the author. They are intended to be “skill building.” I don’t like the phrase, “self-help.” They are designed to engage the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the user and they do require work. The design goals are – look good, feel good, be useful, a 5×8 format. The utility arises from structured questions and a place to write.
A Note on Using These Journals
These journals present an opportunity for reflection and artistic expression and problem solving. They offer guidance and they provide unstructured space, a mix of discipline and play.
Blank space can be frightening, so relax your inner critic. Let yourself feel some fun and freedom and just write or doodle or make rude marks. These are private journals. Nobody but you needs to read them.
Whether you use the journals daily or daily with gaps is up to you. I go through spells, sometimes journaling every day, other times setting journals aside for weeks. The time between journaling is just as important as the time spent journaling. A friend once told me, “My mind works in mysterious ways,” so be patient. Growth takes time.
Four Journals to Date
My first journal, Serenity and Courage, came about as a result of my starting to overdrink upon retiring. I thought, “Burke, you better start taking care of yourself.” I sought counseling and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. I greatly admire AA consistency — many, many sessions start and end with the Serenity Prayer. Yet, as I participated, I wondered, “Is muttering this prayer helpful? Shouldn’t I do more than just mutter? Wouldn’t a journal help?” So, I created a journal asking myself and readers to write down what we have the serenity to accept, the courage to change, and the wisdom to learn. I think of these three steps as feeling, acting, and thinking.
The Serenity Prayer, though powerful, does not go far enough for me. It is a prayer of acceptance and determination, but not a prayer of playing and seeking. I like to acknowledge that I have skills and enjoy using them. I like looking forward to discovering something new every day, just by being alive. So, I composed a new prayer and wrote a new journal, Confidence and Curiosity.
While working with my artist colleague, Adrienne, to create a cover for Serenity and Courage, she asked me to write a guided journal dealing with grief – her mother was passing at the time. So, I created Small Steps toward Transforming Grief. The journal provides pathways to accepting your emotions, dealing with your new reality, and caring for yourself. Creating it was very difficult. I revisited some of my own grief and trauma, but the work helped me move out of the past and into the present. In a similar fashion, creating the cover helped Adrienne.
To cheer myself up after creating Small Steps toward Transforming Grief, I went on to create Keep on the Sunny Side, based in part on a favorite song of my childhood. My other source of inspiration was the book Slow Medicine: The Way to Healing, by Victoria Sweet, M.D. Slow Medicine describes the practicality of thinking of ourselves as organic beings, like plants. In order to thrive, pull the weeds, add fertilizer and sunshine, and wait. Keep on the Sunny Side is designed to help you identify and solve problems, to overcome fear and anger, and to seek joy in life.