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For additional information contact Theresa Nichols Schuster at tnschuster7@gmail.com.

About Theresa Nichols Schuster

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Theresa Nichols Schuster is author of "We Are the Warriors" a 2015 USA Regional Excellence Book Award Finalist and a Health Educator. She was a resident of the Fort Peck Reservation in Northeastern Montana for thirty years. She currently lives in Bozeman, Montana with her husband, where she continues to write, hike, ski, enjoy family and friends, photography and gardening, good food and good music.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Journaling - Discovering the Voice Within




When was the last time you wrote whatever leapt into your awareness? Maybe you already regularly write. It could be you are hoping to jumpstart a writing process or give new inspiration to your words and thoughts.

Parking oneself in a chair with pen in hand and writing paper or a journal on one's lap engenders a rare opportunity to slow down our usual racing mind. So often, our brain is teaming with ideas, plans, emotions and thoughts of events both the past and future. Here, maybe in our favorite chair or quiet hideout, we can pull in the reins of the charging horse, calm and quiet the tumultuous din and observe the countryside we have so blindly been galloping through.

For me, writing or journaling my musings allows me to actually follow a single train of thought, to let that event, thought or dream be filled-out with the attending emotions, questions and subtleties that are on the edge of consciousness - just hanging there, waiting to be noticed and brought forward. Therein discovering a richer level of awareness and acknowledging the sometimes deeper or more difficult questions that may be presented.

Occasionally the gifts of an "ah-ha!" moment or a resolution of tension or confusion is given. Or sometimes it is simply the ability to "voice" what is within.

There are myriads of different types of journaling. For some people journals are records of mainly factual events such as weather, precipitation, meetings and events. Others are poetic endeavors full of the inspirations and verbal melody of free thought association, without care to punctuation, proper grammar or sentence structure. Some contain writing and reflections on dreams, hopes, fears, significant happenings or powerful emotions. There is no one right way to journal - which makes it an exceptionally personal and free undertaking.

Fifteen years ago, I even began an "exercise" journal to add to my regular journaling. I used it to record and inspire my daily or weekly exercise routine. Over the years it gradually also became a health journal, a place I could jot down my health issues and attempts to resolve them. Time has a way of providing real forgetfulness. I have marveled and been surprised at the turn of events or my forgetting about how something had happened.

When I was raising small children my journal entries were pretty meager. The demands, exhaustion and high level of activity with keeping little ones going left little time or energy for writing. Those days probably were some of the most full, interesting and challenging hours of my life.

I have told those close to me to not judge my life by the tone of many of my journal pages. I have used my journal to work through and let out some of my less than pleasant emotions - be it as it may.

Over the 35 years of journaling those pages have displayed the joys and struggles of spiritual longing, the creativity of significant dreams, wonders of key life events, the complexity of emotions and relationships and at times the reoccurring boredom and loneliness that sneaks up behind me.

Most of us don't intend or even wish to have our journals read by anyone else. Some people write with the intention or eventual desire to dispose of the words in some fashion. Others wish to tease their writing to find the hidden gems, the unique twists of vocabulary and thought, barely exposed in the tilled soil.

An excellent jumpstart to writing and creative inspiration is Julie Cameron's, The Artist's Way:  A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. It is a series of writing and reflection exercises of "daily pages" and encouragement to go on "artist's dates" to help access the inner creative urges and dreams that are within each of us. Recently, a young couple I know gathered with six other people to journey through the 12-week The Artist's Way series together. They met once a week and shared their reflections from their daily pages and weekly artist's dates.  The Artist's Way is a wonderful tool to free up inner creativity, access buried dreams and hopes and provide a format to one's writing and inspirations.

Anyone can journal and do it anyway they like. The invitation is to begin and let the process be its own without any great expectations. If we journal a long time, our writing and thoughts will vary in content and complexity from one time or phase of our life to another. Yet too, we may see the similarities, patterns and processes that carryover 20 or 30 years and more and return once again.

Grab a favorite pen, a blank sheet of paper, spiral notebook or carefully chosen journal and plop into a comfortable chair, ready to break into that expanse of untouched fiber with what teams and stirs within and around the unique, gifted human being that you are.