This week I ran out of pages in the journal I have been using for a few months. When this happens, it can be a worthwhile practice, before packing the journal away, to look at patterns, to consider what’s worth keeping, what to let go of, and what might need ongoing attention.
As it happened, this specific journal contains entries back to January, and it includes some entries about a spiritual practice I follow at the beginning of every year; namely, it is a practice of picking a word as a gift.
This concept of picking a word as a gift is not a new one; in fact, it has become a mainstream practice, passed on by creative thinkers, life coaches, and the like. And it can be done at any time, not just at the beginning of the year.
I first learned of it from a Christian community where the practice is to offer the words on the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated on January 6. This annual feast day celebrates the
adoration of three Magi, bearing gifts for Jesus, after having seen and following a specific star.
Their practice includes a basket full of face-down, cut-out stars, each star containing a word as a gift. In their practice, the possibility of words comes from the fruits of the spirit as listed in the Bible’s New Testament, Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. For me, the spiritual component to it is that the word selection is not of my choosing; it is a random draw, pulling me to messages from *Spirit. Once I look at the star face-side-up, I can discern why this word, and why this time (it has happened that I have drawn some of these fruits more often than others; for me, that word is patience).
Now, my star word is faithfulness. Therefore, I recently have many journal entries about this word, including its definition, my thoughts about what I am being called to do, and so on. Not surprisingly, I have also come across my current star-word in other contexts: on meditation cards, advertisements, in magazines or in books of fiction. When I do, it is an opportunity for me to pay attention and include the moment and thoughts in my journal.
Here are some steps and journaling prompts to get you started:
Decide how you will set up your random draw. A simple way, without having to create stars, is to determine which words you’d like to choose from. The Fruits of the Spirit mentioned above are as good as any place to start or you may decide to make up your own list. Once you have a list of words, one randomization method would be to open a page in a book or magazine, reading the first word on the page, and then picking the word from your list which is closest in the alphabet to the first letter on the page. Once you have done this, move to the following journal prompts:
JOURNAL PROMPT: What is my word for the year?
JOURNAL PROMPT: Why do I think I picked this word? What is it’s meaning to me?
JOURNAL PROMPT: What is the dictionary meaning of my word? To follow are the definitions from Merriam Webster. If you have a favorite, trusty dictionary, you might want to check your own, or check some other source (a poem or book with the word’s title, etc.)
Love: 1. strong affection for another; 2. warm attachment, enthusiasm, devotion
Joy: 1. emotion evoked by well-being; 2. bliss
Peace: 1. state of tranquility or quiet such as freedom from civil disturbance; 2. harmony
Patience: the capacity to endure what is difficult or disagreeable without complaining
Kindness: a quality or state of being kind (having social conduct, manners)
Goodness: a quality or state of being agreeable, reliable, pleasant
Faithfulness: a quality or state of being constant, devoted, dedicated, loyal
Gentleness: having a mildness of manners or disposition
Self-control: restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires
JOURNAL PROMPT: Am I being encouraged to stop doing something? Why or why not?
JOURNAL PROMPT: Am I being encouraged to start something new? Why or why not?
JOURNAL PROMPT: Am I being encouraged to continue to do something? Why or why not?
JOURNAL PROMPT: God*, what else do you want me to know?
Don’t second guess yourself on this one. Write whatever comes to you, even if you think it is just your own mind’s voice speaking. In this way, you are getting a two-way conversation started. Involving God* is what makes your journaling a spiritual experience, and it is so simple. You simply need to ask God* what you should know!
The great thing about this practice is that you decide how often to pick a new word; maybe weekly, monthly, on your birthday, for each solstice, or something different.
Whatever the practice you set up, be open to the possibility that *Spirit may walk you to a new word. For example, in the case of faithfulness, a synonym is trust, trust may lead to the phrase unlimited possibilities, from which one may select unlimited or possibilities as the next word.
Whatever route you choose, journaling about it will put your words on paper and give you an opportunity to look on your journey, anytime you like. Happy journaling!
*For this column, I want to define God by not defining God. I suggest that each of us use the term which feels most comfortable. I use God as a universal term. You may decide that Spirit, Great Spirit, Higher Power, Sensibility, Best Self, or SOMETHING else better suits you. It is not for me to decide what term you use. It is only for me to decide which term I use. I often use the term God.
Author bio: Marie Higgins left corporate America after more than 15 years in human resources management to pursue life. Before long she found massage therapy and became a nationally certified, state-licensed massage therapist. At the same time, she felt a partial hardening of the heart, figuratively and spiritually, so she found a spiritual coach to help, and became an active journaling person. Included in her journals are the gratitude lists that helped her heart soften and moved her to write poetry. In 2017 she included these poems in her debut book, Sprouting Spiritual Growth: A Memoir and a Guide to Spiritual Journaling. Since then Marie maintains a journaling practice that includes writing poetry whenever inspiration strikes. Marie lives in suburban Philadelphia with her husband, two young adult children and an active foxhound.