Posts Tagged ‘Journal Exercises’

A.K.A. Pamela’s Meaningless Self-Reflection on Steroids

The Assignment: One of your Facebook “friends” sends you this note titled “25 Things About Me” which contains random stuff: personal trivia, goals, memories, beliefs. In turn, you are suppose to write 25 things about yourself, send it back, and forward it on to 24 other “friends.” This is one of those silly things that I have succumbed to. But it took me so dang long to come up with these that I’m not just leaving up on Facebook to fade away in a few days. Thank goodness there’s blogs to permanently archive such things. With that said, here’s what happens when I have a few cups of coffee, a whole morning and my keyboard …

1. I have 3 sisters and our middle names rhyme: Gayle Denise, Sandra Elise, Julia Rene & Pamela Faye.

2. I once lied about making baklava. Told someone I made it from scratch. “You used philo dough?” she asked. “Yes, of course,” I responded. I had no clue what philo dough was … or baklava, for that matter.

3. I can recite all 50 states in alphabetical order in approximately 20 seconds. I can also do it while walking on my hands with my ankles behind my head, though it takes a little longer to reach Wyoming.

4. The first PG-13 movie I ever saw was “The Way We Were” when I was in the 4th grade. I loved Robert Redford. And I thought my Daddy looked just like him.

5. When I was in college I embraced fundamental Christianity. I went door-to-door and shared the 4 spiritual laws with people I did not know. I listened to a lot of BJ Thomas at the time, and Amy Grant too (before she went pop & that whole Vince Gill thing.) (more…)

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So this week marked the end of my third month ~ 90+ days of practice. My six word memoir project has taken on a life of its own. I created a separate blog to chronicle just that exercise WHICH also includes an occasional picture. (Check out my proverbial “microblog” HERE!) I have enjoyed the momentum the project has gained, both for me personally and with other people. I have heard from several folks who have been inspired to use this exercise in their own lives ~ a couple of friends, as well as a English teacher who is using it as a writing assignment for her class. I think that’s pretty cool.

It’s becoming easier to write these snip-its, and I actually look forward to seeing “what I’m going to say,” 😀 ~ oh, so clever girl that I am! In addition to the daily exercise, at the end of each month I take a look back at see what trends and insights might be revealed. It’s almost as much fun as writing them, and today’s the day!

This Month’s Lessons

One of the things that I’ve become aware of is how “rules” can hold me up. I worry about such things as proper punctuation and word counts. (For instance, should phrases like “Farrah-Do’s” or “San Francisco” count as one word or two?) Wanting to do things “right” often keeps me from acting at all. This is true not only in a writing exercise, but in other areas of my life as well. Interestingly, this is even reflected in one of my entries: “Failure to act makes a decision.”

There were a couple of days in November that I added addendum, a second helping of 6 words for the day. I kind of see that as cheating, but have done it anyway, albeit with guilt. (Side note: Guilt is a chronic condition for me. It is funny how a small six word practice can reveal so much about your personality.)

The most important lesson this month? Just Do It! It doesn’t have to be perfect or grand, just consistent. And THAT can make all the difference. Recently, I read something about integrating a practice or habit into your life which said it’s more important to do something small regularly than to make a big effort sporadically. Certainly everyone will agree, but many (and especially those of us with “all or nothing” personalities) still fail to act. Some examples:

  • After not running for months, I start back with a 5 mile outing, and end up so sore that I don’t go out again.
  • A friend has a baby and I want to take food over, but instead of just taking something, I want to plan a big meal and end up doing nothing.
  • My disorganized office is so overwhelming that when new things come in, I don’t even try to put them away. I just add them to the piles contributing more to the chaos.

Ironically, I was thinking about yoga when I wrote: “Key to Sanity: Regular, Consistent Practice,” but REALLY it’s true for just about everything. This simple writing exercise has taught me that if you just do SOMETHING with regularity, it will start to take hold and make a difference. (It CAN keep you sane.) Whether it’s with writing, exercising, nurturing friendships, or cleaning house, just do it. In the words of Issac Newton, “A body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion.” Or something like that.

Today it’s writing 6 words … Tomorrow THE OFFICE!

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November 2008

Overview: Gratitude for Family, Thanksgiving Celebration, Frustration with Disorganization

  • SportsCenter more fun when we win. (11/1/08)
  • Self-discipline is really self-love. (11/2/08)
  • I married better than my husband. (11/3/08)
  • “Yes we can!” Hope he’s right. (11/4/08) (more…)

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In an earlier post, I wrote about hearing Oprah discuss Wayne Dyer’s views on ego (Edging God Out). It was a fascinating piece, and I had wanted to revisit some of the points. But as I mentioned, I was unable to find what I was looking for on the internet.

My girlfriend Colleen is in the process of creating her website. Colleen is a journal workshop facilitator and spiritual counselor out in the Las Vegas area. We have been friends going on 30 years now and have this amazing connection that transcends distance. After I posted my blurb on Wayne Dyer, she followed up on her site with some details from a talk she attended where he was the speaker. COINCIDENTALLY ~ and are there any really? ~ she posted exactly what I had been searching for:

Dyer described the ego as: a false self, an illusion, a belief system, the cause of all problems, an idea about who we are. Following is a summary of the three main components of the ego:

I. I am what I accumulate. I define myself by that which I own. Consequently, the more I own, the better I feel about myself. And, the less I own, the worse I feel about myself. This results in the never-ending pursuit of more and better matter. It also contributes to how I judge others and their worth. The problem with this belief is that if I ever lose what I have… who am I?

II. I am what I do. I identify myself with the work that I do in the world. “I am a teacher.” “I am a student.” “I am a mother.” I also judge others’ worth by what they do. What happens when I can no longer do what I do? I may have an identity crisis, feel worthless… who am I?

III. I am what other people think of me. This puts my identity in the hands of others. It results in people pleasing. I am constantly motivated and affected by the reactions and opinions of others. I look outside myself for validation. What if they don’t like me… who am I?

Interesting Question: As you consider these ideas, which one of these three beliefs do you find yourself most often misled by? How would your life be different if you were able to let go of that?

***You can read Colleen’s post in its entirety from her site. ***

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Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.  ~ William Wordsworth

My girlfriend Sally has been one of my dearest friends for over 20 years. We share a passion for self reflection and personal growth, though admittedly it has occasionally slipped into navel gazing as our husbands can attest. In the late 1980’s, we discovered Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled and formed a study group back in Boston. For both of us, writing is an important tool in the process. Where I ramble, Sal captures her thoughts in the succinct lines of poetry.

A few years ago, she went back to school to get her teaching certification. No surprise, she chose to specialize in English. Now a “new teacher” in her late forties, Sally works with high school honor students in Chicago. She loves the challenge, she loves getting them to write. Not long ago, we had a discussion about the importance of the writing process.

Sally said that she tells her students to write because the act of writing something down forces you to make a decision, to clarify your thoughts and beliefs, to take a stand. This really struck a chord with me. Whether you’re talking about your political beliefs, the theme of story, or the reasons you’re dissatisfied with your job, the process of writing makes you commit to an idea. And this is what writing, journaling, blogging, does for me. It gives me clarity.

Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.  ~ Graycie Harmon

Sometimes I end up writing, “I don’t know WHY I feel this way.” Then, I draw on my “inner-Colleen” (my other self-reflective best-est, longest term friend.)  Years ago, Colleen taught me a great trick for dealing with those waves of ambiguity. When you get stuck in the “I don’t know” cycle, FORCE yourself to choose an answer anyway. It goes like this … “I don’t know why I’m so unhappy … but if I DID know, the answer would be __________________,” and FILL IN THE BLANK ANYWAY!

Truly, you probably DO know, but fear often keeps you from answering. Fear? Yes, fear! Because when we KNOW the answer, then there is a call to action. We have to change something, and that often takes us out of our comfort zone. Failure to answer the question keeps us from developing our potential within. The process of writing gives us clarity, but only if we’re fearless.

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Other Favorite Quotes on Writing …

I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.  ~ James Michener

A writer and nothing else: a man alone in a room with the English language, trying to get human feelings right. ~ John K. Hutchens, New York Herald Tribune, 10 September 1961

Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning:  I wanted to know what I was going to say.  ~ Sharon O’Brien

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Special Note: My girlfriend, Colleen Tanaka (mentioned above) is in the process of setting up her own website. Colleen presents workshops on journaling and is a spiritual counselor in the Las Vegas area. Check out her new site.

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Editor’s Note: The following is from an email newsletter I receive from The School of Practical Philosophy. I’ve heard this before in different versions ~ I think Stephen Covey uses it ~ but I really like the coffee twist. It is attributed to Laura Bankston.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous, “Yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – God, family, children, health, friends, and favorite passions – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else – the small stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.”

“So, pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical check-ups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the garbage disposal. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked.”

“It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

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Interesting Questions to Journal … What are YOUR golf balls? Do you have too much sand in your jar? What might you do differently?

A chance to reflect, and learn about your True Essence. Brought to you by The School of Practical Philosophy. If you are not currently a subscriber to the “Story of the Week” and would like to be, please visit The School of Practical Philosophy.

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Personal Discoveries

Month #2 of my year-long project is complete. My goal? To record my daily life in exactly 6 words. No less, no more. While the day-to-day entries are somewhat interesting, I find the review of a whole month to be more revealing. (Think: Snapshot versus photo album; both are good, but one’s a bigger picture!)

I’ve enjoyed the comments and emails that I’ve received about this project. Some have even joined me on the ride. My “Anu-newbie” friend Leanne Kitteridge posted her own 6-word thoughts during her recent training with John Friend. (Leanne is an Anusara Inspired teacher near Vancouver, also a student of Christina’s, and my first OFFICIAL electronic kula-mate.) She describes the teaching benefits of practicing 6-word summaries.

I’ve also noticed some other “energetic effects” of this simple writing exercise. Remember what Socrates said, albeit in 7 words: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” (Note: we could tighten that up just a bit ~ maybe insert the contraction “isn’t” ~ and VOILA! Same profundity in six words!) But Socrates aside, here are three benefits that I’ve discovered from my 6-word diary practice.

I. Focus

As a life-long (though somewhat erratic) journal writer, I have blathered my way uncensored through more than a few spiral notebooks. I have also gone extensively without recording a word, simply because I didn’t have “time” to write. The 6-word summary forces you to BE CONCISE. It is your daily thesis. You must … (more…)

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So at the top of my blog is a static post called Today’s Pam-oir which is my daily reflection in exactly six words. (A shout out to my friend Diane Henry for the name!)  I have challenged myself to write one a day for a year, and I recently completed MONTH ONE!  (You can read all about the process and watch my year unfold ~ like you wouldn’t want to miss THAT ~ on my 6 word diary page.)

Looking back on this first month of entries, I find it very interesting to review. Some of my reflections immediately bring to mind what happened that day, what prompted my words: the night the dog went missing, the morning Hurricane Ike struck land, the weekend I arrived at the Yoga Journal conference.  Others are more cryptic (and I wrote them) and yet universal.  I can’t remember the specifics behind my September 2nd entry “Pain in Yoga” but the truth remains for me: it still equals self-doubt.

Try this exercise yourself ~ just for a week.  It’s really an interesting challenge to make an attempt to sum up your daily experience or lesson in EXACTLY six words. You’ll find yourself thinking, “What’s the overriding message today?” Then you’re constantly counting the number of words in your phrases: can I take out a “the,” make a contraction, or eliminate an “and” with the use of a colon.  (Aside: Probably not a very good exercise for those with obsessive-compulsive leanings.) That said, here is …

My SEPTEMBER 2008 in 180 words

  • Forty-six: Seeking Dad’s Approval … still. (9/1/08)
  • Pain in yoga equals self doubt. (9/2/08)
  • Would rather be writing for money! (9/3/08)
  • Counting words ALL day long … exhausted. (9/4/08)
  • Evening of six word liners with friends. (9/5/08)
  • Procrastination: The Illegitimate Child of Perfectionism. (9/6/08)
  • His wind-blown curls, my sunlit heart. (9/7/08)
  • Hope to be on Oprah someday! (9/8/08)
  • Hope kids aren’t ever on Oprah! (9/9/08)
  • Bottom of the pile doesn’t exist. (9/10/08)
  • Hate running.  Love the feeling afterward. (9/11/08)
  • Nike is right. Just do it. (9/12/08)
  • Yoga Practice: More Fun with Friends! (9/13/08)
  • Disasters, CNN, the internet & me. (9/14/08)
  • Friend or Foe?  Fixation with food. (9/15/08)
  • His blue eyes light up mine. (9/16/08)
  • Lack of Acknowledgment Opens Deep Wounds. (9/17/08)
  • Dog’s gone missing, so’s my sleep. (9/18/08)
  • Celebrating: dog located! Sleep? Still missing. (9/19/08)
  • Packing for trips completely overwhelms me. (9/20/08)
  • It’s a Colorado Rocky Mountain High. (9/21/08)
  • 800 practicing Anusara at one time! (9/22/08)
  • Kula: An ever-expanding group of beings. (9/23/08)
  • Happy birthday, dear Jeannie, my friend. (9/24/08)
  • Inhale rise up. Exhale and fold. (9/25/08)
  • Ah, the life of a journalist. (9/26/08)
  • Rest gives the body new beginnings. (9/27/08)
  • Seven days of yoga, homeward bound (9/28/08)
  • Off the mat, on with life. (9/29/08)
  • Om’s where I hang my mat. (9/30/08)

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