I'm not usually a big Valentine's Day person. In reality, I'm not a big holiday person in any way. However, my students are currently learning about relationships and the holiday, so I showed them Hannah Brencher's Ted Talk about Love Letters to Strangers. I read her book a few years ago and was deeply moved by it. Brencher's talk argues that the handwritten letter is in fact an "art form" and will no longer need to argue its own survival. I'm not sure I agree 100%, since so few people use letters any more. Nonetheless, I do agree that there is power in the handwritten word.
Actual snail mail notes and letters have always held a special place in my heart. I still have the last letter my grandmother sent me before she passed, tucked safely away in the pages of one of her favorite Psalms. When my late husband and I were deployed, we took to tucking love notes in each other's flight bags as we transitioned through the crew room on our opposite schedules. Cards - the Hallmark kind - are still something I love to gift for birthdays, special occasions, or even for no reason at all.
The beauty and presence required to write an actual letter has always been a form of meditation for me. Perhaps that's part of why I love journaling via pen and paper so much. The first year after my husband passed, my journal was a series of letters to him. They weren't always the most loving in tone, many were heartbroken or angry embodiments of the stages of grief. But having the ability to write freely, and to watch how my emotions changed the timbre of my handwriting across the page enabled me to work through my grief in a manner I couldn't access anywhere else.
Journaling has also been at times a series of letters to myself. Sometimes it's a series of questions and answers sparked by an emotionally charged encounter. Other times it's an admonishment to do better or be better when I struggle to find my way. Sometimes the words take on the voice of a tough-love big sister, or a whiny little one, both included in my ser, my being, surfacing to egg me on, or to tell me to get over myself and move. Less frequently, my journal becomes a self-love letter: a time when I allow myself to celebrate who I am in all my complicated glory, sometimes sweet, sometimes exasperating, but hopefully always real.
We fill our minds so often with negative self-talk, my challenge for myself and for you this Valentine's day, is to take the time to write yourself a love letter changing that paradigm. Instead of talking yourself down as we're all so wont to do, build yourself up!
Write it the way you wrote to a crush or a first lover years ago. Let yourself exquisitely detail all the little -isms and ticks you adore about yourself. If you don't know where to start, start with writing to yourself as if you were your best friend or a secret admirer. Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and take that time to guide yourself in an entrance meditation walking through your life as if you were an observer. Note those characteristics that make you shine your best self. Appreciating your better nature, even if it feels fleeting and often subordinate to the nature that tears us down, will start to retrain new pathways in your brain. It will sow seeds of goodness, and raise up a pathway of joy in place of pain. Start small if needed. Even a list of things you love about yourself - or that others have complimented you on - will get you going.
I know this isn't easy, it's safer and more usual to see all the areas where we fall short. I ask you to choose to commit to yourself this valentine's day. Choose to shower your own heart with the love you shower on others. I'll be "write" there with you. :) Comment and let me know how it goes! I'll give you a few prompts to get you started below the picture.
Happy celebrating you!
Write for 5 minutes from one or more of these springboards each day this week. When next week comes, see if it gets a bit easier to greet yourself at the door laughing and invite yourself in for tea.
- On my best days, I am....
- People often surprise me by saying I.... (positive things only please!)
- I feel most alive when I....
- When I was a child, I knew myself to be....
- I always believed I could....
- My best assets are my...
- My superpower is....
And, as my mother often says, "Please be patient with me, God isn't finished with me yet."
Sending grace and love to you all.
Tomorrow is the shortest day of the year, the day with the least amount of sunlight. I'm most definitely a "light baby." I thrive on light and warmth, and hibernate when it's dark. My favorite time of day is what I call the "golden hours," something a friend from Germany calls the "blue hour." Either term refers to that time just before sunset when the sun is low enough to paint everything with a warmer hue - gilding the ordinary and comforting with promises of tomorrow's light to come.
I just got back from a life-time dream trip to Barcelona and Madrid, Spain with one of my closest friends. Our entire trip seemed bathed in light. We landed before sunrise in Madrid, but as soon as the sun came up we encountered lovely light play wherever we went. I'm trying to craft a piece about it for submission to a literary journal or two, but haven't yet figured out how to capture it. One thing that most certainly came from the trip, other than a desire to move to Spain, was the discovery of an inspirational architect - Gaudi. Gaudi's whole modus operandi was to create space for light to shine on all, especially light from Heaven. His cathedral La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is unlike anything I've ever experienced. If you ever find yourself in Barcelona - take the time to visit with an audio guide or tour guide, and walk through the museum as well. Everything about the cathedral speaks to a love affair with light! His installations in Park Guell similarly play with light and shadow around every corner.
Writing and journaling for me is a way of exploring ideas and exposing things to the light. I have a tendency to get caught up in my head, with thoughts running amok, dragging me into chaos and sometimes darkness if I'm not careful. Writing helps to channel those thoughts, and corral them into some semblance of significance, or at least some labyrinth that I can puzzle out. When we shine light on something, we can more clearly see the details and decorations in order to separate key things from clutter. In this time of year especially, I find it's helpful to write with a dual-focus. Look backward and capture honestly your year in review, but also take time to vision forward - writing for what you hope, dream, or need to come in the weeks and months ahead. You can do this for your life as a whole, or separate out the different areas of your life and see what has been and what could be.
I'm always surprised by how quickly the time goes each year. I know it doesn't really change speed, but it often feels as though it does. Due to being on break from my day job, I had some time to revisit Chinook's year just past recently. In review, I found that I've learned a lot as a beginning entrepreneur, tried many new things, and am refining what directions to take this in. One project on the horizon is an email course with binderful.com. Check out their website for some other great courses to break up status quo while we're waiting!
While I love, the idea of blog as medium because it allows for more to be shared, it also feels sometimes like sending things out into the void. If you are reading this, I'd love to hear from you - what would you like to see from Chinook in 2019?
On this shortest day of the year, play with light in your own life - what does it look like? Where have you seen it and where do you want to see it more? Do a 5-minute write on each, then look back at them to see what you notice. Have fun and enjoy the Christmas and holiday season. Don't forget to breathe and take time for you - even 5 minutes a day can help maintain sanity. Be blessed - and shine!
Happy belated summer solstice!
I can't believe this year is already half over. In some ways it still feels like it's still starting, but perhaps that's because I've been starting so many new things in my life this month: new course offerings, new business ventures (more on that later), making new connections, learning new skills, finding new areas of service, and so on. I'm finding too that as with any new venture, often new starts involve new thinking/planning/reflection and journaling modes.
In that vein, just out of curiosity I decided to research a bit about "Summer Solstice Writing Traditions." Google is ever so helpful, but apparently writing isn't much of a tradition for Summer yet. However, I did find quite a lot of intriguing information about Solstice Traditions around the world as well as some well-living benefits of the solstice. Here are a couple that stood out.
First of all, one Scandinavian tradition involves participants jumping over a bonfire several times. Apparently, the act of jumping over the fire serves partially as a means of purifying and getting rid of demons or negativity, but also in hopes that those who jump successfully will marry during the next year. A few other similar traditions shared the belief that the bonfire would enhance or magnify the power of the sun to predict good harvests for the rest of the year and possibly to predict the future. (Psychology Today 2013)
Another tradition from Greece called Klidonas involves unmarried women putting a personal belonging in a pot of sea water and leaving it overnight, such that when they retrieve it, the power of the "magic" of the longest day of the year has imbued it with prophetic power - usually regarding their future husbands. (CNN Solstice Traditions 2018)
Finally, in asking the question why so many cultures have traditions of celebration around this day, Scientific American blogger Maria Konnikova suggests that the reason may simply be that on this day people are often the happiest they've been in a long time (Literally Psyched Blog, 2013). I found that there have been quite a few studies that hint at a correlation between more sunlight and more positive attitude. Christopher Bergland, author of The Athlete's Way blog on Psychology Today states that "When there is more sunlight each day, our mood and energy is biologically pumped up. Midsummer is a supercharged time physically and emotionally, which makes it ideal for making resolutions to: kickstart new habits, strengthen human relationships, and let go of negativity." (June 2013).
At this time I'm not especially interested in the marriage aspects of solstice celebration although it does provide food for thought, but who doesn't want to kickstart new habits, strengthen relationships and let go of negativity? I think the correlation between positive energy, happiness, and future visioning may be helpful not only for my multiple new endeavors, but hopefully for you as well! So, here are a few journal writing suggestions to help us harness the power of the sun during this summer solstice period. Let me know how they turn out for you! Happy Sun-writing!
1) Start with a “virtual bonfire” write. Picture yourself (safely) jumping three or more times over a bonfire that magnifies the sun’s positive energy and as you do - each time what drops off?
What negativity does the fire burn away?
What “baggage” do you want to leave behind?
Try this format:
“As I jump over the fire, I feel (notice, picture, allow) __________ (specific negativity, baggage, harmful quality, thing that no longer serves me, etc.) dropping away….As I land on the other side I now feel….(new emotions thoughts that take the place).”
2) Try to harness the power of Klidonas in your own way. Write in present tense as if you are actually doing this tradition. Write down what personal belonging you leave overnight. When you retrieve it, what promise, prediction, or positive thought has the “magic of the day” imbued it with for you to carry with you through the rest of the year?
3) If a more logical, straightforward write is more your thing - simply view this as a way to vision what the rest of your year will look like. Make a list of goals for 5 or 6 different areas of your life and as you write each one down, add one action step you can take each day/week/month going forward to bring you closer to them.
4) Or, simply spend some time in the sunlight and write about what you appreciate during this time of year and what you want to shine in during the rest of your life this year. Here are a couple starters:
- The sunlight’s gift to me is...
- One way I can bring more positivity into my life is…
- One thing I want more of for the remainder of the year is…
- One thing I want less of in my life for the remainder of the year is...
The We Podcast - Overdue
Cross-posted from rockymountainwellneswriting.weebly.com
This is a belated post about an interview I did with Sarah Monares from The We Podcast back in March.
Sarah is doing lovely things working with women through her podcast and also her "We Are Women Rising" Group.
In this interview, we talked about my journey with journaling and what led me to Journal to the Self®. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it! Check it out at
Or search for "The We Podcast" on iTunes or android, the interview about journaling is interview 3.
So, why journal? Isn't a journal just a collection of diary entries done every day? What's helpful about that?
Journaling can definitely be a series of diary entries done daily, or weekly, monthly, yearly, etc, but it can also be much more than that! I've kept a journal for years, ever since a high school mentor gave me my first journal at 16 with the instructions to write whenever I felt like it. In the years since, my journals have run the gamut from daily logs, emotional "letters" never sent, travel journals, creative explorations and many other things.
A few years ago while pursuing a Creative Writing Certificate, I enrolled in a course titled: Writing and Healing. The course was by far the best class I had taken throughout the program. In it, I learned a variety of guided journaling techniques that completely re-vamped the way I had been using my journal. They could all be done quickly (as in less than 20 minutes) and continually surprised me with how much of an impact they had on my life! At times, I've used the techniques to gain clarity on decisions I'm facing. Other times, I've used techniques to further creative pursuits and breathe life into fictional characters I'm working with. I frequently find myself returning to some of the techniques to help with time-management and finding balance in life!
After a few years, I found myself longing to find a way to help others heal from the craziness of life, and came back around to the idea of using expressive writing and poetry as a means of healing. The Center for Journal Therapy's Journal to the Self® Instructor Certification course offered a great way to get started. Since then, I find that each time I go through the JTTS method or teach it, I gain more insights into whatever new adventures life is bringing me and it keeps me growing and learning.
I know how much expressive writing has helped for me, and I hope it is helpful for others as well.
Below, I'm including the links to a couple of articles about Expressive Writing and the power to heal. Enjoy!
US News article about the Health Benefits of Expressive Writing (2016) health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2016-08-31/the-health-benefits-of-expressive-writing
American Psychological Association article on Writing to Heal (2012)