Correspondence and journaling have consistently proven to be a cathartic tool for me over the years. The act of processing my thoughts by way of writing and re-reading feels so fluidly natural once I begin. The outcome is never grammatically correct, and it often evokes many laughs and re-buffs along the way.
My favorite moment of the process is when my furiously thinking mind tries to draw itself back to one of it's rant centered tangents, and it just feels too hard to re-direct; That tangent, the fire and the energy along with it, has begun it's long walk down the road home. It takes a look over it's shoulder at me as I call to it again, but it's too far down the road to want to turn around any longer. Now I can sigh and smile, as I wave goodbye to it; I am able to let it be.
Yes, I want to share a reflective thinking exercise with you. Not only for the reasons mentioned above, but to also place an emphasis on the power of taking inventory: of yourself, your place, and your life. This process can be shocking; It can also be heartwarming; It can be saddening, and beyond awakening to give yourself space to view 'you' from afar. I ask you to allow yourself to be open and to go with the flow of the process
- I have shared my own experience and example of the work with this exercise at the end of the post.
Grab something to record your thoughts, like a pen and paper, computer or voice recorder. Begin with choosing a specific year in your life to look back to and journal on. Spend about 10-15 min there writing anything and everything you can remember about that year of your life. Where were you. Who did you live with? What were you doing daily? Where did you go? What were your beliefs? Who were your friends? Remember some details, and follow a few different threads of thought.
WRITE + DRAW
Now, do the same thing for where you are at right now. Spend about 10-15 min writing anything and everything you can remember about the past few months of your life.
WRITE + DRAW
Once you have journaled both of these events, take 5-10 min to compare these different times in your life. What has changed? Has anything remained the same? Did your goals in the past align with where you are now? Were there any detours or roadblocks on that timeline between events? Are there any happy surprises you didn’t see coming? What were your biggest successes? Where did you feel lost, or challenged?
After giving yourself the opportunity to digest these experiences, allow yourself to set-up goals or visions of what that amount of time in the future looks like for you i.e. if you chose to review 4 years ago, finish writing about yourself 4 years in the future. Spend 10-15 min or more on journaling, drawing, or collaging your vision. Know that you may never feel ‘finished’ with this process, and that is ok!
WRITE + DRAW
When you are able to conclude your practice, set this note aside for yourself to look back on when you feel the urge to.
SAVE + REVIEW
In returning to this particular exercise a few times over the past weeks, I am once again shown the power of this comparison tool.
When I think as I try to list everything from this year, I actually acknowledge that damn - I did a lot this year. And yeah, it was real; Yes, it makes sense that I am totally overwhelmed on top of the state of the world, and seasonal depression and ... How could I be anywhere else but in the middle of the thick of it?
But then I can remember to breathe, because it’s not permanent, nothing is. And I can see it, in plain text, right in front of me. I have been somewhere difficult before. I re-enter the vision, the emotion, the sensations and review it. That makes me feel secure in knowing that I have persevered when I have faced challenges and fatigue before.
I am reminded that I cannot be alone, I am not singularly facing difficulty or having challenges while others float with ease. And I think if I feel like I need a hug, then so does someone else. And now I can view everyone with the kindness I hope someone offers me.
I will begin to learn to face challenges now as I recognize them as a friend. "Oh, hey Difficulty, How’s it hangin’?" "Wanna take a yoga class together sometime?"