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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn

Gently Unfolding Your Heart: A Few Suggestions from an Inveterate Journaler

Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Yawning

Yes, feeling a little better can be as simple as a yawn. Yawning can increase your oxygen intake, stretch and relax various head and facial muscles, and irrigate your eyes and throat by producing more tears and saliva. Plus it feels good. Especially if you s-t-r-e-t-c-h at the same time.

If seeing this picture doesn't elicit a yawn, try imitating one. Relax, open your mouth wide, gently lift up the upper back part of your throat (your soft palate) and make yawning noises... ooooohhhh.... aahhhhhhhh...hah-hah-hah. And enjoy the little ripples of feel-good that flow out from your yawn.

Many animals yawn frequently and quite naturally. If you need a good example or just a good laugh, check out some great photos at

Gently Unfolding Your Heart: A Few Suggestions from an Inveterate Journaler

I've been writing in diaries and journals since I was ten years old--in spiral notebooks, in the "book-sized" blank books you can pick up at Barnes and Noble near the cash registers, and most recently in 11" X 14" artist sketchbooks. I've even done gratitude lists--a type of journaling--in those tiny blank books.

Writing almost always helps me think and/or feel my way through an issue or dilemma. I also love to muse about spiritual and/or cosmic concepts in my journals. And it is my favorite way to pray. Most of my poems, and some of my stories have had their start as journal entries. I almost always feel calmer and more centered after I write.

There is some good evidence that this can be true for many people, not just for those of us who identify as writers. Research shows that journaling may strengthen the immune system, help people cope with depression. and perhaps even help wounds heal faster.

So I thought I might share a few of things I've learned or developed over the years as a journaler. These are only suggestions. I find all of them to be fun, fascinating and/or fruitful. If they don't work for you, or if they become a burden, adjust them. Or toss them out.

I want to say how grateful I am that I have time to do these practices. It's true that because they have proved so enjoyable and fruitful for me, I make time for them--I give my daily quiet time, which almost always includes journaling, a very high priority in my life. But I know that many people (e.g., working parents with children) simply don't have the luxury of time that I do, especially now that I am retired. But the returns of an increased sense of connection to my Higher Power, insight into problems, and the benefits mentioned above are well worth the effort, even if I can only do a few minutes a day.

As you may have guessed from the format of my blog posts, I love using words and pictures together, and I do that enthusiastically in my journals. As with a children's picture book, the words and images enhance and support each other. Over the years I have gathered hundreds of images (both photos and artwork), mostly from magazines but also from travel brochures, catalogs, advertising circulars, my dentist's reminder postcards--once I even took the label off a jar of plum jam. You'll see images on paper everywhere if you start to look. And, of course, you can use your own photographs to personalize it even more. And/or stickers, if you like stickers. Or rubber stamps. Or drawings, if you're an artist--and even if you aren't! There are so many possibilities.

Did I say I have hundreds of pictures? It's probably more like a couple thousand by now, including a special collection of tiny pictures for those little gratitude journals I mentioned. Lawrence likes to tease me about them--and I admit, it does amount to something of an obsession. But I have so much fun, both collecting and using the images (I do stand-alone collages occasionally as well). And, as he says, they don't take up a lot of room--it's not like I'm hoarding rusty old cars in our backyard!

I often glue in the pictures on a number of pages beyond where I am actively journaling. (TIP: I find rubber cement works the best.) But when I choose pictures I try not to think about it too much. Instead I select them intuitively and fairly quickly, letting the pictures whisper, or call out to be paired together on a two page spread. In this way they become like dream images, leaving more room for revelation, for mythic or mystical meaning.

I am not much of a visual artist--these pages are not for others' eyes. They are simply there to encourage and challenge me, to help me tease out some meaning and messages for my life. Or sometimes just to offer beauty.

I often simply trim the pictures, but occasionally I do elaborate cutting around the outline of an item (e.g., a stained glass lamp, an animal, an article of clothing), using them singly or sometimes taking the time to do a small collage in the journal.

TIP: I learned early to use a sharp pair of cuticle scissors to cut out intricate items, turning the curve of the blades away the image I am cutting, which means that just a tiny cutting edge is in contact with the image, allowing for much more control over where I cut.

Perhaps next time I'll share about some of the different types of dialoging I do in my journals, techniques that help me connect with a power greater than myself and to explore my inner canyons and mountains. May you enjoy exploring your own.

Inside this clay jug

there are canyons and pine mountains, and the maker of canyons and pine mountains!

All seven oceans are inside, and hundreds of millions of stars.

Kabir (15th c. Indian mystic)

translated by Robert Bly

Until next time,


Photo credits:

Puppy, Daniel Lincoln, unSplash

Journaler, Ana Tavares, unSplash

Stack of journals, Pure Julia, unSplash

Pictures in journal, Pure Julia, unSplash

Canyon & creek, James Lee, unSplash


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