This article was originally posted in July 2008, but I have again been thinking about the subject and wanted to add a post script to update it. It is easier to first reprint the post so you will better be able to understand the update that follows this reprint.
I do not know how many of you maintain diaries or journals, but for the last forty years or so I have kept many. I have journals in which I have jotted down ideas, plans, experiences, hopes and dreams. I have meditation journals where I recorded meditations and insights. I have dream journals dedicated strictly to night dreams and patterns that I have seen there through the years. I also have records of several hundred “trance” experiences I have had through the years.
For me the value in keeping these journals has been how they help me clarify and refine my consciousness. Often, in our minds, thoughts flow through so quickly and chaotically that it is difficult to pin down any meaning. It is like a word jumble. When I write down my thoughts and feelings, it slows the process down so that I can more deliberately examine content and understand the meaning.
I have on many occasions returned to past journals. What a revelation that can be! First, I notice patterns of recurring experiences which show me that I have still not resolved certain issues. It may be that certain types of people keep showing up in my life who irritate me or cause me to become defensive. It may be repetitive experiences that leave me feeling unaccepted or still lacking in some manner. On the other hand, I can clearly see progression in how I have dealt with issues in my life. Some challenges simply don’t appear in my life any more. Some of the dreaming has actually produced results in changed life styles and new people in my circle of friends.
Perhaps the most meaningful result of reading these journals up to now is that I realize I have become much freer from dogma and the many shoulds or should nots that I accumulated along the way, starting from childhood and continuing through my seminary experiences. By the time I left seminary for my first church I had pretty much set my beliefs in a stone mold. Oh, I did expand upon them and continued to learn, but I was clear about the base of my belief system. As I worked within the system that I had trained for, most of my beliefs were not challenged. It is only as I left that system that I discovered another whole world of people who thought quite differently. They had radical ideas that challenged the status quo, political correctness, and racial/ethnical standards of the day. I found myself stimulated in mind and heart to explore these new, open vistas free of my old judgments of the way things are supposed to be.
That was the beginning of the Whole Life Learning Center. That activity was operated successfully for ten years before I closed the organization and began a different adventure in the more typical business community. Periodically, I reached back to those times in my life and attempted to reactivate some aspects of what I did during those earlier years. While this was an invigorating experience, nothing seemed to catch on with me totally as it had in the 70s. The last attempt to “live in the past” ended just over a year ago with the cessation of the new Whole Life Learning Center.
What I have come to understand in terms of what is important in my life right now is that I thrive on exploring and writing about new insights that come to me as I meet my everyday challenges. I enjoy the friends with whom I am privileged to exchange ideas. I appreciate in a deeper way my family, both those near and far. I also realize my “family” is more extended than I once thought. Some who have been friends are really my family in the truest sense of the word.
How does this have anything to do with journals and diaries? Well, I have been able to arrive at some of my current conclusions by reviewing the unfolding of my attitudes and beliefs in my various journals. Even though I have at times felt stuck, my journals reveal that I am at a different place in consciousness for dealing with some of the situations that appear similar to past conditions. So I will continue this process. I encourage you to do the same. If for no other reason, writing down your thoughts and feelings will help organize them and you will understand them more clearly.
Postscript to the above article.
From time to time I consider destroying my years of journals. I think about this from the standpoint of making it easier for whoever has to make decisions about my “stuff” after I have moved on. One of the things that I appreciated about my Mother was the fact that she had arranged for her final days in such a way that handling details following her death was remarkably easy. Through the years I have not only accumulated numerous notebooks containing my journals and miscellaneous writings, but also many other things that might well be taken care of while I still can. But that is another story.
Years ago when I was taking psychology classes in college I had a Skinnerian behaviorist professor who engaged the class in a number of experiments that besides teaching us about that aspect of psychology, gave us an opportunity to learn research procedures. Of course, there was a lot of work involved in these projects. The professor occasionally would tell us about how once in a fit of anger he had destroyed all of the research he had done on a pet project. I think his purpose in telling us that was to encourage us to respect the work we did and not to follow his foolish example.
You can imagine the surprise in class the day he stormed in, obviously enraged over some apparent slight he had experienced from his peers, and told us that he had destroyed all of his recent project work!
Every time I consider destroying my journals I think back to that class. So, for the time being, I will delay any such action because I still find them to be a resource for gauging how I am doing in my growth process. I still journalize, though not as regularly as I once did. Again, I think this is in response to considering the “clean up” after I am gone. For what is worth, I encourage you to consider journalizing your experiences. I know you will look back upon the entries over time with a sense of amazement at how prescient they turned out to be.