the power of journaling

Are you a committed journaler?  A wanna-be journaler? An off and on journaler?

Journaling has been an essential part of my journey. Journaling has helped me make all of the key decisions in my life, it has helped me make meaning during times of heartbreak and frustration, it has been a repository for the poems that needed to be written and the words from the soul that weren't heard until they formed themselves on the page.

And yet, I have been an on and off journaler and I know there is even more potential in those pages that I have left untapped. Now, in the middle of my life, I can feel the urge to start writing down some family stories for my nieces and nephews. I also feel the gravitas of wanting to live the years ahead with great consciousness - and I know that journalling is a key to that.  

My mentor, Marlene Schiwy, wrote a deep and thorough book about journaling - A Voice of Her Own: Woman and the Journal Writing Journey. In it she gives the following reasons for journaling:

to broaden self-awareness
to explore personal identity
to have a trustworthy confidante
to pour out feelings and emotions onto paper
to create continuity in our lives
to preserve memories of ourselves, of people and of events
to cope with discontinuity, change, loss, grief
to explore creative impulses
to capture ideas for stories, poems and other projects
to record and explore dreams
to celebrate accomplishments and successes
to engage in a dialogue with the world around us
to discover what is sacred in our lives
to deepen our spiritual journeys
to remember beloved family members and friends
to understand the story of our lives
to sort out thoughts and clarify ideas
to survive traumatic circumstances
to take stock of our lives, from time to time
to clarify our life’s purposes
to reap the wisdom of the unconscious

Wow. Sounds good, right? Who wouldn't want to journal after reading that list? 

So, how about a couple of opportunities to support yourself in making journaling more of a commitment?

I am offering a short creative journaling course through the Creative Grief Studio (and if you aren't into journaling, there are a whole whack of awesome courses being offered).  In this course we will be using the myth of Demeter and Persephone as a jumping off point for our journaling so you never have to worry about coming up with something to write - it's the perfect way to re-ignite your journaling fire. Over the course of a week I will be giving you journaling techniques (I don't want to call them prompts because they are more instructive that that) that you will be able to return to again and over the course of your journaling life to reap all the benefits from the list above.  The week of journaling will be bookended by two phone calls and supported by a dedicated online forum space that will allow time for connection and sharing. I am really excited about what I have put together for this course - I just finished a 9 month exploration of the myth of Demeter and Persephone and I can't wait to invite you into yourself via this ancient, archetypal story. It is a story of loss, of unbridled grief, of parents and children, of women in transition, of reclaiming and reconnecting with ourselves and of deep feminine wisdom. This myth was used for centuries in Ancient Greece as part of the initiation rites into the Eleusinian Mysteries. So there's that. too. If you feel called to join this myth adventure - sign-up here.

The second journal support offering is from creative and artist Lisa Sonora Beam. She has had great response in the past to her 30 Day Journal Project and she is offering it again starting July 1st. Completely free, Lisa and friends will give you prompts, ideas, and ways to connect with fellow journalers. Lisa is an artist so if you are curious about adding a visual element to your journaling this will be the place to explore that. 

As I finish typing this, I have beside me on my desk a pile of reflective journals from my students in my psychology class - reading these journals tells me more about what they have learned than any test ever could. In the same way, for us, there is something about that quiet space on the page that takes us deeper than any Facebook update or personality test - it brings us home. 



One of the best things I ever did for International Women's Day, and I'm doing it again

In 2010 I celebrated International Women's Day by creating a collection of women's writing and art contributed by wise and talented women such as Brené Brown, Martha Beck, Shilo Shiv Suleman, Danielle LaPorte, Margaret Wheatley and many more. I offered it freely to the world and it had wings. I heard from people all over the world (men, too!) using it in ways I had never envisioned. It was being used in workshops and staff trainings and women's groups and at women's shelters. It was on many a night stand to be referred to again and again. It spawned numerous similar projects - which is fitting since I myself was inspired to do it by a project Seth Godin had done. 

This year, I wanted to celebrate its 5th birthday. So I went through and updated all the bios and the links (these women have been up to some incredible things in the past 5 years) and I also added 5 new entries from 5 voices that have something important to say:

  • A poem from my inspirational friend and colleague, Tara Mohr.
  • Wisdom from a woman I deeply respect: Indigenous teacher and leader Jeannette Armstrong.
  • Probing thoughts from brilliant UK writer, Jay Griffiths (if you don't know her yet, you can thank me later).
  • A touching reflection on mental illness from writer Esmé Weijun Wang.
  • And finally, an invitation for your body from one of the most intelligent and soulful yoga teachers I have met, Jill Miller.

For you - please share freely and with love - the free download of the 2015 refresh of What is Dying to be Born?   Click on the cover below to download and read it now.


This post is dedicated to Darry Oudendag Estes with whom I spent many engaging hours discussing love and attachment as we drove back and forth to our intensive study with Dr. Gordon Neufeld in the summer of 2010.  Darry was instrumental in bringing the AfriGrand Caravan (sponsored by the Stephen Lewis Foundation) to the Comox Valley. She left this world in December 2012.

My friend Tara Sophia Mohr is doing her magic again - bringing light to women's voices that are often in the shadows. This time she has organized a blogging campaign to bring attention to Grandmother Power - inspired by the book by Paola Gianturco.  How could I not be a part of this when all proceeds from the sale of the book go to The Stephen Lewis Foundation Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign (Stephen Lewis is a beloved Canadian hero).

When I think about grandmother power I think not only about my biological grandmothers, but also all the wise older women whose words and ideas have helped shape my life.  Women I consider to be my spirtual grandmothers. Women like Marion Woodman, Clarissa Pinnkola Estes, Anais Nin, Virginia Woolf and on and on...

I want to share with you a poem that enlarges and deepens our understanding of grandmothers.  It was written by Jeannette Armstrong, also a member of my communion of spiritual grandmothers.  I first met her over 20 years ago when she came way up into Prince Rupert, where I lived at the time, to give a reading at the local library. Her words cracked me open then and still do.

Jeannette writes about this poem: "The poem "Grandmothers" was first written in N'silxchn and interpreted into English. The English term grandmother as a human experience is closest in meaning to the term Tmixw in Okanagan, meaning something like loving-ancestor-land-spirit."

How gorgeous is that?


In the part of me that was always there
are speaking to me
the grandmothers in whose voices
I nestle
and draw nourishment from
voices speaking to me
in early morning light
glinting off water
speaking to me in fragile green
pushing upward
groping sun and warmth
pulling earth's breath
down and in
to join with porous stone
speaking to me
out of thick forest
in majestic rises to sheer
in the straight slight mist
in twigs and fur
skin and blood
moon and movement
feathers stroking elegant curves against wind
silent unseen bits
in the torrent of blood
washing bone and flesh
earth's piece
the joining of winds
to rock
igniting white fire
lighting dark places
and rousing the sleeping moment
caught in pollen
a waking of stars
and when blue fire
slants to touch this water
I lift my eyes
and know I am seed
and shooting green
and words
in this hollow
I am
night glittering
the wind and silence
I am vastness stretching to the sun
I am this moment
earth mind
I can be nothing else
the joining of breath to sane
by water and fire
the mother body
and yet
I am small
a mote of dust
hardly here
unbearably without anything
to hold me
but the voices
of grandmothers

little epiphanies

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany - capital E - in the Catholic church in which I was raised - as well as many other churches.  It marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas and is the day the three wise men brought gifts to the nativity.  Here are a few Epiphany gifts for you.

1 - A story

Often in my psychology curriculum we are talking about relationships and love and infatuation around winter break, so I often take the time to read to them one of my favourite Christmas stories - The Gift of the Magi by O Henry.  It's a story of young love that hits all my sap buttons and I can't get through a reading of it without choking up - which just adds to the entertainment for my students.  If you haven't read it - here it is: The Gift of the Magi

2 - A new celebration

I just discovered that in Ireland, Epiphany is also celebrated as "Women's Christmas" - a day when women gather togther and celebrate amongst themselves. I often hold rest and reflect gatherings for my female friends early in the new year and discovering this feels like I had tapped into something passed onto me intuitively from my Irish great-grandmother.  The author Jan Richardson has more about this and a free PDF to help you commemorate your own Women's Christmas.

3 - A poem and a wish

Beyond the capital E Epiphany, I wish for you a year filled with little epiphanies that guide you ever closer to your self.  This poem by Alison Joseph captures this wish perfectly:


Little Epiphanies

The difference between what’s required
and what’s desired is the difference

between the chocolate and the cake,
the car and the new car smell, the nightie

and the night. There’s so much I want
to twist round my fingers, to stroke

and stir, sketch and stretch, but so much
I should sweep and scrub, strip

and sterilize.  But I’d rather wring dirt
from my pores, turn it to ink instead,

rather scurry to my driveway to study
the moon’s abrupt phrases than kneel

with bucket and mop to banish shadows
that have sprung up on my kitchen

floor, darkening my soles as if I were
anointed, a kind of low-rent henna

for the lazy and uninhibited.
I should keep the unmentionables

unmentioned, nudity prohibited,
purses to a minimum, but I thrive

on clutter—my gaudy bras and bags
of yarn, my malfunctioning pens,

last chance reams of slightly damaged
paper. The difference between what’s whole

and what’s held, what’s withheld
or revealed, what’s real and what’s

revelation—that’s what I seek,
rest of my life spent in search

of little epiphanies, tiny sparks surging
out of the brain during the clumsiest speech.


Though the grocery store racks are full of magazine covers on organizing, decluttering and losing weight - don't forget to make time for your heart and soul in the midst of all the new year hub bub. 

The world needs more wise women.

You may want to consider joining me and Julie Daley in our WildSoul Book Club winter session.  We are reading a book by one of my treasured wise women - Marion Woodman.  The book is called Dancing in the Flames and is all about tapping into your deep embodied feminine - a great source of wisdom. Click for more details.

putting desire on the map

How many people go through life trying to do what they ought to do, fearful of judgement, fearful that they will say the wrong thing?  Instead of looking to their own feelings, they look at what will please others and as a consequence that desire, that quality that says, "This is what I want and I will reach for it," that passion for life, isn't developed. 

~ Marion Woodman

I believe Desire is the antidote to a society that is all about being driven.

Desire is the wild child running through the forest in her barefeet, climbing trees, blowing kisses and beckoning us to come play. 

Drive is the machine that cuts down the forest.

A return to desire can allow for healing to happen - for you, for me, for our world. Coleridge called desire "love's pure flame" - a return to desire is to light that flame of love.

My friend Danielle LaPorte has a new book coming out tomorrow - The Desire Map. I read an advance copy. Loved it.  If you like my thoughts on Ambition vs. Actualization or on Being Drawn instead of Driven, you are going to want this book (and it isn't just a book - it's a whole package of goodies).

That it is called The Desire Map is not insignificant.  In a world filled with books, blogs, and magazine articles wanting to give us directions with how-to this and seven steps to that, we are stuck in a limited view. Just like when someone gives you directions to get from point A to point B in your car - you are consumed with looking only for the street signs and landmarks they have indicated. And if you happen to be distracted and miss one, you're lost. You miss the entire landscape in your preoccupation with signposts.

Instead of directions, Danielle gives us a map. A map is a full, whole lay of the land. It highlights the landscape. You can see the many ways to navigate, you can always find your bearings, you can choose a different path to the same destination. You can walk across the countryside and aren't limited to the roads. And desire, in case you didn't know, means "from the stars" - also a great navigation tool for humans throughout history.

With the stars and a map as your companions, this book will help you find your way home to yourself, to re-ignite the desire spark you were born with and hear the cry of your soul.

If the supressed desire in the unconscious is not recognized as a soul cry, if it is ignored, the soul is put to sleep instead of awakening into its symbolic delights - in nature, in imagination, in relationship.

~ Marion Woodman

The Desire Map launches tomorrow - and there's a party, of course - come join the party!