This month we focus on one of my favorite spiritual practices journaling!
Journaling is one of the most researched, effective ways for people to find personal/ spiritual growth. The analytical parts of our brain get to introspectively think while our creative juices are able to flow into something unique and personal. It's a win win for our brains.
Journaling has been found to reduce stress, depression, anxiety, and increase our overall mental health. It allows us to take control of our lives by honing our self awareness and identifying any unhealthy thoughts or patterns that might have developed. For more information about the health benefits check out "Journaling for Mental Health" by the University of Rochester Medical Center.
We are all walking our own personal and yet communal faith journey's. As we figure out this life and what we believe we are constantly bombarded with questions, thoughts, ideas, and experiences. Journaling is an excellent way for us to work through these thoughts and keep track of the journey. The practice of writing helps us collect our thoughts, reflect on our experience, and form a structured way of telling our story. It also allows us to connect within and identify how the spirit is moving in our lives.
So let's look closer at the spiritual practice of journaling by identifying methods and tips on how to get the most out of the practice.
There is no right method to journaling. It's really whatever will work for you and helps you find the divine in your life. To get you started, I have identified below some specific methods people have use in journaling. You can use one or a combination of them. Again its whatever suits you and reaches your goals.
1. Spiritual Story Journal - It can be helpful to have a place to write down the experiences you have with the divine and others that hold meaning in your life. Maybe its lessons you've learned, people you've connected with, or maybe when you were inspired from a moment. Journaling this way allows us to work through those experiences but also keeps as a record for us to go back to and use in our personal ministry.
2. Gratitude Journal - There is tons of research supporting the added benefits of writing down what we are thankful for. Doing this daily or even 1x a week is highly beneficial to our thought processes and how we see the world. When we focus our thoughts on gratitude we become a more thankful person.
3. Free Thought Journal - This is also known as stream of consciousness. It's a creative and completely open way to put our thoughts down in a manner in which we can reflect on them later. We dump what's in our brains or how we are feeling on paper, without any judgment. And since there is really no structure it can be whatever you want it to be.
4. Doodle Journal - Some people find expressing themselves through drawing to be more helpful than writing. A journal with doodles may just be what you need to identify your emotions. Sometimes a combination of the two can be very powerful in fully constructing what we are thinking and feeling.
5. Vision/ Goal Journal - Writing down are goals is a highly effective method proven to help people reach them. Having a journal focused on the vision of our life helps us achieve our dreams by staying focused and moving toward our target destinations. This might be our spiritual vision or it might focused on our passions.
6. One a Day Journal - Another method to journaling is writing down a few words or one sentence a day. This helps those of us who want to journal but do not want to devote the time it takes to write all that we are feeling. A few sentences a day or words that make up our thoughts may be all we need to later reflect and know what we were thinking.
Tips for Getting Started
Hopefully at this point you are contemplating whether to start a journal. So where do you start? Well let's go to the experts. Below is a video by journaling expert Clark Kegley who provides 5 tips on how to get started on a journal.
I think its awesome he puts down the number of days he has until he is 90 in his journals. We only have so many days and we need to live them the best that we can.
I hope the spiritual practice of journaling can help you do just that! Give it a try, work through your discomfort, find God in the midst of your writing, and live your best self.
Thank you for everyone following along! Please comment about your experience with this Spiritual Practice! This week pick up a journal from the store and get writing!
Speaking With Our Bodies
My grandmother after she retired found a ministry that got her excited and involved - clown ministry! That's right she would dress up with a white face, red nose, purple hair, and a colorful outfit. A group she was affiliated with would go around to churches, children's hospitals, and other places to bring joy to others. My grandmother's clown name was Rainbow because of a significant story that had impacted her life.
One interesting thing about this ministry is that my grandmother was a silent clown. She didn't say a word but used facial expressions, hand gestures, and body language to communicate her message and bring humor to others. I remember seeing her in action when I was younger, and was amazed at how well she could communicate without words.
My grandmother's example makes me think about the expressive nature of humanity. Our expressions go beyond words by powerfully connecting who we are with others. It is our expressiveness, our non-verbals which speak our welcome to others and open us up as individuals.
So let's explore this topic with these questions. How can we hone our non-verbals to be more welcoming with those around us? How can my non-verbal communication enhance my spirituality?
This short clip was taken from the movie "A Thousand Words" in which Eddie Murphy lost his ability to communicate. He attempts to order an espresso at a coffee shop but struggles when others do not read his non-verbals correctly. It humorously depicts the challenges we sometimes have in our communication if we are not being expressive or reading the body language of another correctly.
So how do we improve our non-verbal skills? Check out Kendra Cherry's "Top 10 Non-Verbal Communication Tips." If you are still craving more you can also go to Erik Devaney's blog post "33 Little Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills." Practicing these tips will improve your overall communication with others. When we hone what we communicate we can become intentionally welcoming.
Here's another video of some dancers who had to overcome their language barriers to create this dance. It's fascinating when we realize so much of our communication happens without words.
Enhancing Our Spirituality With Body Spirituality
Most Christian traditions have various non-verbal communication which most people can identify with. Hands together = praying, hands raised = praise, etc. Our body language can play a major role in us experiencing the divine. Sometimes it's what we do with our bodies that opens ourselves up for God to be present within us. Using gestures, postures, and movements helps us connect and embody our spirituality. Community of Christ has a great reference to Body Spirituality which I have linked for you to check out.
The biggest challenge is overcoming the feeling of awkwardness and discomfort which usually accompanies people who try something different for the first time. We typically fear what is different so any changes with our body moves us into the realm of discomfort. But it is in the discomfort where spiritual growth can be found. Much like the video above, if we go through the motions comfort comes and we are able to communicate clearly. So I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and try something different.
There is so much growth for us to find if we begin to harness the power of our non-verbal communication not only with people but also our own spirituality. Let your welcoming spirit radiate throughout your body!
I would love to hear any comments about ways you have used non-verbal communication to enhance your spirituality. So Please Share!
Donna and a Pack of Cigarettes
Many years go I started a church plant in Cleveland, Tennessee just up the road from Chattanooga where I was living at the time. I was doing some home visits when I noticed a lady walking down the street. I drove past her on my way to a families home. Later that night, I came back down the same street and again I saw this lady, but this time she was sitting outside her home.
For some reason I had the feeling she was lonely and in need of something. So I rolled down my window and said, “Hey do you need anything?” She responded, “Yeah, some cigarettes.” Immediately this internal conflict went through my head on whether I should buy cigarettes for this woman. I'm not a smoker and I know how smoking impacts individuals and our overall public health. A few seconds go by and I yell, “Hop in.” She jumps in the car to head to the nearest convenient store. She says, "I’m not used to people being this nice." I responded saying, "Well I’m a minister." The woman said, “Oh, at first I thought you were a drug dealer because where I’m from that’s what they would ask.” I laughed thinking about the similarities of the two.
She tells me her name is Donna and she just moved to Cleveland from Michigan to be closer to her kids. She has seven kids, who all have been placed with her sister in town. Donna said none of her kids respected her as a mother. She just ended a bad relationship and was feeling lost and confused. By this time we were at the gas station so we went in and bought a pack of cigarettes.
On our way back Donna shared how she just doesn’t know who she is or what she wants. "I’m forty years old and I don’t know what the heck I’m doing or who I am." After a moment of silence, she said, "I came down here to be closer to my kids and I know that is something I want though."
This openness by Donna started a deep conversation about the dark times in our lives when we feel lost and how God works in the midst of the chaos. I prayed for her and Donna got out and returned to her home. I asked her if I could stop by and visit her sometime which she agreed to. Who would have ever thought that buying a pack of cigarettes for somebody would have opened the door to providing ministry to a woman in need?
Sometimes we get caught up on thinking about what the right thing to do is based on the morals and values we have been raised with. But we need to be open to understand how those morals and values can sometimes be hindrances to providing valued ministry to those in need. I'm not saying we should throw them away but we need to see past the surface and really identify peoples needs in the moment. There are people starving to know the divine in their life and we have to put down our own judgments and meet people where they are at.
Subjects of Judgment
Being the subject of judgement is painful. It often produces shame and guilt. Church folks historically have been known for being some of the most judgmental people there are. We have to understand in life judgments are going to happen. The problem is when we are judged in church it is compounded because those are people who we experience God with and through. The meaning can be projected to the thought God rejects who I am.
Some people believe calling others out will set them straight. However from what I have seen many times this pushes people into hiding. It creates a division in relationships and moves people further away from experiencing the divine in their life. If you have been the subject of judgment from a church I cannot fathom the deepness of your pain. I believe God is there with you and seeks to commune with you whenever you are ready.
I also believe your story matters! I believe being vulnerable and telling our story creates healing. Others need to know how you have felt and how you have been impacted. Interpersonal change comes through listening to personal stories. Again I do not know how deep that pain is but when you are ready I encourage you to share that story with someone.
If you don't know who, I would love to get to know you and hear your story. Click here to contact us. Please leave your story in the comment section or a way for me to get in touch with you.
Moving Beyond Judgment
The video above was produced by Gabrielle Bernstein. I loved her quote, "We use judgement to protect ourselves from the pain and fear of being alone." Much of what we do are protective factors for our own insecurities. When we lead with compassion judgment is put to rest. There is also a great article by Jill Weber, Ph.D titled "4 Ways to Stop Fearing Other People's Judgment" which gives great tips on what we can do to move beyond our fear of judgment.
God calls us into holistic relationships with others. We need not leave our pain at the door, or hide who we are. But compassionately share who we are in the moment the best that we can. Yes we are going to fall short, and most likely we will probably have some judgments along the way. But hopefully the compassion of Christ leads us to overcome those times and eliminate any fear, guilt, shame, or rejection that might come or be experienced. It is to this compassionate love that we are called.
Doctrine and Covenants 165 3d&e
d. Be not consumed with concern about variety in human types and characteristics as you see them. Be passionately concerned about forming inclusive communities of love, oneness, and equality that reveal divine nature.
e. Oneness and equality in Christ do not mean uniformity. They mean Unity in Diversity and relating in Christ-like love to the circumstances of others as if they were one’s own. They also mean full opportunity for people to experience human worth and related rights, including expressing God-given giftedness in the church and society.
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This week assess your thoughts becoming aware of the judgments you have about yourself, others, and the environments in which you live.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.
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