Once upon a Journal
This is a silly story to explain the usefulness of journaling:
Once upon a time there were two knights, Sir John and Sir Henry.
Both were starting out on a quest.
Sir Henry’s journal was hard bound and strong because he knew it would have to survive a sometimes difficult journey. It was also made of unlined paper so that he could sketch maps, draw pictures and doodle when he was bored.
Sir Henry decided that if his journal was going to be really useful he would have to write in it every day in order to make it a habit. He also knew that if he missed days, he might miss important clues in his quest. He decided that even if he was very tired, he would at least write the date in his journal each day.
Sir John scoffed at Sir Henry. “Thou bookish fool” he said. "There are too many things to do on this quest to take time out to scribble your fancies in a secret book."
Sir Henry wrote about this in his journal, because it bothered him. He wrote a letter to John telling him how he – Sir Henry – felt about John’s comments, and he also told him about all of the good things that a journal could do.
He mentioned that a journal could be used for collecting insights, for clearing up bothersome and unclear issues, for storing the thoughts that go round and round and round in your head and threaten to drive you crazy, or for collecting dreams. He also wrote that a journal is a good way to record the path so that you know where you have been. He knew that he would never give the letter to Sir John, but he felt better for writing anyway.
Sir Henry started by writing about his trip each day. He would record some of his thoughts and feelings, draw little maps, and complain about Sir John. After a while he realized that not only was he complaining less about Sir John, but they were going in circles. He mentioned this to Sir John, who was much impressed and began to think that journaling may not be such a waste of time after all. Journals are great tools for spotting repeating patterns.
Sir Henry often thought of his true love, Lady Celia, whom he would not see for a very long time. He wrote dialogues in his journal about the conversations they would have:
“Celia dear, today I killed a dragon. It was just a small one…”
“Oh Sir Henry, you are so brave and wonderful… were you much hurt my love?”
“Oh, no, well just a bit. It did burn my leg somewhat…”
“OH, how awful. What can I do to help you feel better…”
To which, Sir Henry had a several good ideas, all of which are best left out of this story...
Sir Henry found that it helped to talk to Lady Celia, even if it was only in writing, and he was able to focus more clearly on his questing when he knew that he could record his pressing thoughts this way.
Sir Henry also noticed that he often wrote his thoughts with other people in mind – such as Sir John, or a village nobleman who had been particularly rude, or a serf who had been helpful. Other times he wrote to someone who seemed to be inside rather than outside of himself. He found that it was interesting to note who his audience was, and that sometimes it helped to give him clues about his quest.
He also wrote about his dreams. He didn’t know how to interpret his dreams very well, but he didn’t really care. He found that just writing them down seemed to be helpful. He would write about a dream as soon as he awoke so that it was clear in his mind, and then he would think about it through the day.
Often, the images or feelings that he remembered in his dream would seem to colour the day, or to correspond with events that had already happened. He was a very well educated Knight, and he knew that dreams were a contact with the subconscious. He tried to integrate his awareness of dreams into his daily life so that he could learn to be more connected to his intuition and his unconscious mind. He found this helpful when questing, as he learned to trust his hunches about which fork in the road not to take.
He tried to explain this to Sir John one day, during a particularly long, hot, and dusty ride looking for a dragon that had been reported. His journal entry that night was a somewhat heated and lengthy tirade about Sir John’s intelligence and breeding and his dreams were full of dust and vacant eyed dragons. It is good indeed that journals are private things.
On another occasion, Sir Henry was very confused about an altercation with a fellow Knight a-questing, and was unsure if honour and good manners required a challenge or an apology. He wrote all of his thoughts in his journal and found it to be a wise counselor. He decided to neither challenge, nor apologize, but to invite the fellow to his fire for a cup of tea. They became good friends, and continued to write to each other for many years.
A wise man that Sir Henry met upon the road told him of another use for his journal. Sir Henry complained to the man that dragon slaying was a scary business and that he sometimes doubted his courage. The man suggested that Henry write out his fearful experience, rate its intensity on a scale of 1 to 10, and then relate it to an earlier time where he had similar feelings. Here is what Sir Henry wrote:
“When a dragon is towering over me and breathing hot flames at my shield I feel very angry and frightened and want to run away. I think that I am not strong enough to stand my ground. I have a strange sense of doing something wrong”. Intensity 9.
“When I was very young I broke my mother’s favorite mirror while practicing jousting in her bedroom. She towered over me and she was so angry that I thought she was going to catch on fire. I was terrified, and I was angry that she cared more about the mirror than she did about me. I wanted to tell her that I was more important than her stupid mirror, but I didn’t feel strong enough to say anything. I just felt like I had been very bad.”
He then divided the original intensity between the two events. He gave the early experience an intensity of 6 and the dragon experience an intensity of 3. He realized that he kept repeating the same feelings in all of his conflicts.
During his journeys, Sir Henry had many strange and wonderful experiences and being a thoughtful fellow, these experiences often lead him to interesting insights about the world (such as “A life without witness is like a road with no map”, or “Courage is easier before one meets the dragon”). He faithfully recorded these in his journal as well, as he found that though they seemed very clear at the time, they were often very easily forgotten and were much less clear the next day.
On returning home, Sir Henry re-read his journal and found that he had changed a great deal. It was very comforting to know that he had been on such a trip and to see the path laid out so clearly. It also helped him to decide what to do next. He became a writer, and made a great deal of money exaggerating his experiences for the general public.
Sir John who still didn’t like writing bought a voice recorder and started a new quest, recording his thoughts and dreams along the way.
The moral(s) of this story are as follows:
1) Journals are good
2) Journals will help you on your quest
3) You can use journals to collect insights, clear up cloudy issues, store thoughts that won’t go away, collect dreams, point out patterns, and witness your life.
4) You can also use journals to point out how present situations are related to situations from the past.
5) If you really, really, really don’t like writing, try using a voice recorder. (Though writing is recommended as being better)