Why did you join the IAJW?
I sprung for the opportunity to join the IAJW after attending the “Go To the Page” Speaker series in January. I was absolutely in awe as I listened to the speakers because their experiences resonated so deeply with mine. I immediately knew that I had found a home I did not even realize I was searching for! Journaling is typically a very private and solo activity. I had not even considered the possibility that there might be a formal community of journal writers! To be able to connect with other passionate journal writers who “get it” and to be in a place where I feel I belong, is truly a gift.
Joining IAJW has been one of the highlights of 2022, and I am so grateful to Lynda Monk for who she is. Her wise and calm leadership, presence, warmth, skill, and dedication to bringing together this unique community around the world has brought me such a sense of comfort and validation as a journal writer. It has served to further fuel the burning flame inside me that is always hungry to write, and has given me permission to believe in my personal journaling practice. In my professional life as a psychotherapist (LCSW) in private practice, journaling and expressive writing tools are some of the top interventions I use. Although I joined IAJW for my own self-care, I knew that the rich experience of other journal writers would also help add more depth and breadth to my work with clients.
What do you like best about journaling?
My very first diary with a lock and key was gifted to me by my mother at about the age of 10. I was ecstatic with the idea that I could scribble down my thoughts and feelings in a book that no one would be able to see! Around this time, I had the good fortune to learn life lessons from my wise grandmother. She used to say: “In life, many problems and challenges will arise, but you must never fall apart…Instead, you must be strong and find a way, or carve out a new path”.
As a young girl, I found a way to express my deepest feelings in my diary. I remember writing a poem about a tree just outside my window as a young girl, and being told that I was “talented” when I shared the poem. For me, though, it was just a natural thing for me to do – to express the thoughts that were bubbling from the inside about this beautiful tree with whom I felt a kinship. As I grew older and experienced more of life, journaling became my most essential tool for savoring the good, accessing inner wisdom, and growing through adversity. The journal has always helped me to find a way.
In fact, journaling is central to my life because it is truly that which centers me. No matter what is going on in my life (happy, sad, traumatic or joyful events), my journal serves as my constant companion and oasis – a non-judgmental space where I can completely be myself, be with myself, and allow my mind to explore, discover, learn, heal and tap into inspiration. Knowing that I can express anything that is itching to emerge without any judgment, expectations or obligations, makes me feel safe and cared for. I look forward to the lightness I experience when I release blocked feelings, take a step back and gain perspective, better understand how I am processing events, and reframe how I view an experience.
The journal pages are magical; they are a place where great transformation can take place. I can write from my heart, clear my thoughts and feelings, and realize that there is much gold to be found underneath the surface. Like the Golden Buddha in Thailand that was discovered underneath a layer of clay, I look forward to meeting my inner Golden Buddha. There is always wisdom and lessons to be found. We need only come with a desire to dig deeper and excavate treasures from our inner being. Journaling is a free ticket with a lifetime visa to travel anywhere I would like within and fully explore to my heart’s content! To write is to bring to light a part of the Universe (our mind and heart) that is invisible and yet to be discovered.
Letting my thoughts and feelings flow onto the paper serves as a constant reminder that I am the one who witnesses these thoughts and feelings; I am not those thoughts and feelings. Through this process, I am able to access my Wise Self. In so doing, I can then capture insights that flash by, reflect on wisdom passed on from spiritual mentors, savor blessings after trying on a broader perspective for size, grow through adversity and trauma (losing loved ones, facing scary health challenges, etc.), and expand my thinking on new concepts to make them my own.
Journaling has empowered me to design my life as I envision it by giving me a delightful space to write about inspirations and create blueprints. Each day of life is our teacher, and if we are committed to being students of our lives, we can learn many of the lessons through our reflective writing. Although there are countless journaling prompts from which we can draw upon, a prompt that I always turn to is: “What did I learn from this experience?”
Our lives are a mosaic of moments. Journaling helps me to slow down and enjoy these moments of life by giving me the ability to create beauty and meaning out of every experience. Just as a somber piece of music can touch us, or a painting that depicts a horrific scene can still be seen as a work of art, we are given the opportunity to view any experience in any way that we choose. Recently, I woke up to the sight of sunrays dancing on the jasmine flower petals in my living room. Focusing my telescopic lens on one single jasmine flower made me much more aware of its beauty and presence in the Universe. When I am journaling about a particular experience, the lens is sharply focused on that moment, and allows me to enjoy everything that arises as part of the beautiful tapestry of life.
Journaling has helped me to focus in on the uniqueness of each day, even when the days seem mundane or repetitive. The Japanese concept of Ichigo ichie, “a unique encounter in time”, reminds us that even though the same people may see each other daily doing the same kinds of activities, the gathering can never be exactly repeated. Each encounter is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion (Garcia and Miralles, 2019, The Book of Ichigo Ichie). In other words, what we are experiencing right now will never happen again. Each day we journal, we are capturing the freshness and uniqueness of life!
One of the most fulfilling aspects of my career has been the opportunity to share my passion for journaling with clients in the US and India. Over the past more than 20 years that I have been a psychotherapist, I have seen clients who use journaling tools transform their relationships, lose weight, write songs, make important life decisions, access greater well-being as they notice the good in their life, and so many other changes.
Here is a small excerpt from a client testimonial “One of the most moving “homework assignments” [Kalpana] had me do was write a letter to my ex-fiance expressing my emotions and then share it with her. It was extremely moving and brought out a lot of emotions in me. As time passed, I built up more and more confidence within myself which led to positive changes all throughout my life”. Most fulfilling was being able to conduct journaling workshops at colleges in India.
A young female student in my workshop has stayed in touch with me almost a decade later. She shared how much the workshop impacted her life: “[from your workshop], I learned that diary writing is a rejuvenation of the self…it is not just a piece of literature but also a philosophy of our own personal world which belongs to our soul…sometimes when I read the words I have written in the past, I wonder whether these notes are written by me? I am surprised to know that I am also a counselor, friend, philosopher and guide to myself”. Imagine what this world would be like if we could all become friends, philosophers, counselors and guides to ourselves through our journaling practices?
What is one journal writing tip that you would like to share?
Create a journaling practice that supports you. If you find that you need a daily dose of journaling, but don’t have time to write for long stretches of time, experiment with shorter forms of journaling that may still help you to express yourself and move closer to your center. On busy days, I write phrases or bullet points in my iphone “Notes” app that serve as reminders of the thoughts I would like to journal about at a later time. Simply finding a way to capture those thoughts in time honors them. Even a small dose of journaling can be far more therapeutic than none at all.
What is one of your favorite books on journal writing or creative inspiration?
I love books about creativity, so I will share a few of my favorites! They are: Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, Making Your Creative Dreams Real by SARK, and Coaching the Artist Within by Eric Maisel.
The one thing I would like you to know about me is…
I love to travel around the world and journal about my experiences. Solo travel through India, Southeast Asia and the Mediterranean while taking time to journal each evening was thoroughly fulfilling. Some of my favorite moments journaling were in the green rice paddies of Bali, sitting on a small Indonesian island beach after seeing a gorgeous blue starfish while snorkeling, and while sitting in a music recording studio in India. I’ve been a stage singer since the age of 8 in the genres of Indian spiritual music, semi-classical music, folk music and Bollywood music of the 50’s and 60’s. During a few trips to India, my mother and I recorded 3 CDs of our vocal music (with instrumental accompaniment by our music Guru’s family). We recorded songs that were favorites of our elders and ancestors, sang lullabies for the next generation, and spiritual music based on classical ragas.
Though I do practice meditation in silence, music and journaling are highly effective meditation practices for me. I am grateful to have traveled to many countries around the world, but the most beautiful place is to be able to come home to my center through my journaling practice. It is like time stops and I am given this delicious opportunity to contemplate and reflect on the day that I just had the great fortune to live.
What do you like most about being a member of the IAJW?
I really look forward to the monthly Zoom interviews with experts. The information and experience shared is so rich, as is the conversation with the community. It has also been very enriching to write in the Writing Alone Together circles – something that I had never experienced before! There’s a very special energy created while writing together in silence. None of this would be possible without the masterful leadership of Lynda Monk. I learn so much from watching her facilitate.
I grew up with writers around me who would never have called themselves writers! I came to find out that my love of journaling was shared by my great-grandfather who kept a daily diary for most of his life. He not only documented life events, but also his insights and lessons about them. Today, we are still learning great life lessons and family history simply based on the diary of my great-grandfather.
When I was an undergraduate studying at Bryn Mawr College, I attended a lecture by a best-selling published author who encouraged us to keep a journal and write about our lives. Her words, “no one has ever been you, and no one will ever be you…therefore, your story is unique and one day could help someone who struggles with similar life challenges”, stayed with me and continue to reverberate in my ears today. I hope to share stories from my life experiences with others in the future through more published writing, but even when I write for others, I know that journaling will always be my most cherished form of writing!