Journal Writing as a Spiritual Practice and for Discernment

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

What is it about journaling that is so appealing?  What are some of the benefits of journaling?  Can journaling help you learn more about yourself?  Can it help you discern how God might be calling you at this time in your life?

Journal writing (or keeping letters or diaries) is an ancient practice that many have found beneficial and useful for a variety of reasons and purposes.  When you are discerning where God may be calling you and how to respond to this call, journaling may serve to help you pour out your concerns and fears and to receive clarity and understanding with the path God is calling you to follow.  Journaling offers a freedom to be yourself, a “safe place” to put down on paper your experiences and all that you hold inside, all that is sacred.  You can jot down what may be opening or expanding or forming within you. It is a place for expressing what is important to you, what is happening in your life and how you perceive life.

As a spiritual practice and a spiritual discipline, journaling has many benefits.  Writing in a journal can offer us moments of clarity, of inspiration, of perspective in understanding our own selves and others.  Journaling can deepen our relationship with God and help us to go deeper into ourselves because “buried in the stuff of our lives, underneath the running current of daily activities, lies the treasure, if only we are willing to risk looking and seeking.”  This quote is from Helen Cepero’s book, Journaling as a Spiritual Practice: Encountering God Through Attentive Writing.”  The author also notes that “all spiritual disciplines and practices, including journaling, are about learning to be aware and awake, open to God, ourselves and the world around us.”

In my journal, I include passages from books and articles I have read that I want to remember and reflect on further. I use my journal to record daily events, musings, and insights that come from the stillness or the restlessness of wherever I am when I am writing.  I try to put aside judgments by writing quickly and not censoring what emerges. I use my journaling time to listen to the inner movements that are directing me or inspiring me.  In this listening to the thoughts that emerge within, I may remember a moment or situation that draws my attention, inviting me to look closer for a treasure or a message.

Journaling helps me to clarify my jumbled feelings and thoughts.  The act of writing seems to free my spirit to find its own way and voice.  Journaling is a personal experience, a personal encounter with the Spirit of God.  Journaling is an experience perhaps like what the psalmist writes in Psalm 139:1-2, “Lord, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar.” In the probing to understand ourselves and in seeking to be understood through our journaling, we ultimately come to a deeper relationship with God, where we lay bare our lives to find forgiveness, compassion, and love awaiting us from the Divine.

Journaling offers us an opportunity to get in touch with our personal stories, our personal histories, and sheds light on who we are, where we are, and where we have been.  When we look back at our journal entries, we may see patterns and themes that depict what has been on our hearts, revealing insights about ourselves and about God’s presence and movement in our lives.  We may also see that our journal entries are love letters between us and God, revealing God’s faithfulness to us.

So, grab a pen and a notebook and begin a practice of journaling, where God awaits you.

If you are discerning your vocation, you may find that journaling helps you identify the joys, challenges, and resistances that you may be experiencing as you explore the possibility of life as a religious sister. Emotionally, journaling can help ease your worries about going into the “unknown” of following God’s call.  Let God speak to you through your journal entries and when you are ready to begin a conversation about where God is calling you, we invite you to contact us.

Posted in God Calling?, Vocations Blog

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