BE inspired by Cheryl A Finley, IAJW Member from Western Springs, IL (Greater Chicago area), USA

Why did you join the IAJW (International Association for Journal Writing)?

I was delighted that after speaking with Lynda via phone, before joining, I sensed that the IAJW was a kindred community of like-minded folks centered around something so dear to me, writing from the heart! And that in any given moment, that precious act and practice is honored and celebrated by fellow IAJW members on the path. I felt that this would be a place that felt like home, and it does!

What do you like best about journal writing?

This question strums my heart strings! One of the things I like best about journal writing is the opportunity to pause; to be still, and not only catch up with myself, but to slow down and become present to the stillness, and to savor it…and all of its gifts. As soon as I sink into my writing space, and pause, and breath slowly in and out, I settle into the stillness that awaits my attention. I discover I am consciously reunited with a part of myself that holds the light for me all day. It’s really quite sweet.

I don’t know if you remember, years ago there was an advertising slogan for lodging which said “…we’ll leave the light on for you.” Well, that’s what’s being left on for me, and not only is the light being left on, it is the Light itself.. waiting for me. (I feel it’s that way for all of us.) That Light is always available and ready to receive me, my conscious attention. I engage that light in bodily presence and heart-awareness. I set pen to paper and let whatever is in my present-moment-awareness to pour through. Appreciation, gratitude and reflection are a few cornerstones that make themselves known, organically.

Two other areas that enhance my journaling are: dialoguing and creating imagery. Sometimes I dialogue with whatever is on my inner-radar for greater understanding or direction. This can include an inner-aspect or a physical part of myself, relationships, seed ideas, questions, dreams, or projects that are on the horizon. The area of creating imagery has had a tremendous effect on my life. About 13 years ago I was introduced to making mandalas, what I call “free-form” mandalas (spontaneously drawing with markers inside of a circle about the size of a CD). It’s amazing how this practice unleashed so much creative passion within me!

I consistently created and blogged each mandala for a few years, and with each post, I wrote, spontaneously in the moment. A very revealing, healing experience. I also connected with many others online and we all inspired each other. I love this heart-centered writing and creativity, and how it connects me with others; and with myself even more deeply. It allows me to see from the landscape of my life versus close up. And that is refreshing.

What is one journal writing tip that you would like to share?

To allow the writing experience to be whatever it is, without judgement. I know this might be a challenge at times, however…it can be a good overall practice for conditioning ourselves to go with the Flow of life, while at the same time developing the equal-mindedness and spiritual stamina to handle whatever comes; and to have the strength of vulnerability, and the wisdom of courage to ask for support and what we need, when it’s needed. I’ve found this to be true for my experience in journaling, spontaneous drawing, process painting or making collage as well as meditation practice…and life! The results, although they may be subtle at first, have indeed become evident.

What is one of your favourite books on journal writing or creative inspiration?

Oh, what a loaded question! It’s hard to pick just one! I cut my teeth on Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way in the late 90’s with the Morning Pages and some of the weekly chapter exercises. And, I still have and use from time to time, my Artist’s Prayer which she has us write early on. It still stirs me to this day! Also, her book, The Right to Write. For overall creative inspiration, Jill Badonsky’s 9 Modern Day Muses (and a Bodyguard.) Also, Louise DeSalvo’s Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives, always inspires me and affirms the importance of our stories, and telling them.

One thing that I would like you to know about me is…

I am a mom! It is one of the most indescribably fulfilling experiences of my life. Early on I realized that being my daughter’s mother revealed my infinite capacity for love and loving, What a perennial blessing to be “mom” to an amazing, beautiful, self-determined, resilient, creative, generous, witty (ok, I’ll stop… ha, ha!) 30-something daughter. Seeing her make her way in the world, living, loving, contributing, leading. She’s a good citizen of the planet.

My favourite part of being an IAJW member is…

My favorite part of being an IAJW member is the kindred, creative community; the monthly telechats; the wealth and treasure of Lynda and the Council members, and the inspiration, seeing how journal writing impacts the lives of such a wide variety of people; and the brief but mighty chats in the FB group, which is what led me to enroll in Leia Franciso’s Writing Through Transitions program. For that, I am very grateful!

Creative Gift from Cheryl: My Heart of Heart mandala and poem came at a tender time in my life, and in the spirit of sharing from the heart, I share it with you. May it bless your heart.