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Spiritual Matters: Recognize Movement by Looking Back

Marie Higgins August 3, 2022
One of the reasons I have come to love journaling is that there is so much value in the looking back. That’s where the magic happens! I’ve been journaling since 2009 and it has made such a huge impact on my personal growth – I know this, because I can see the differences by reading my own words and the changes over time. 
Today, let’s approach this act of looking back, together, with some steps and some journaling prompts.


Gather your current journal and the journal just before the current one. If you have just begun journaling, then your current journal will suffice. 


Look at the first entry in your current journal. How many days ago was this entry? What strikes you about this first entry? 
It could be that you are currently writing in the last few pages of a journal and the first page of it might be many months ago. Or it could be that your first entry in this current journal was just a few days ago. Regardless, look for similarities or differences. For example, maybe you are dealing with the same issues, maybe you resolved these things or maybe they resolved themselves. Whichever the case, write about this. If you have not yet started journaling and all the pages are blank, write about how that feels. 
Now, if you have been journaling for some time, look at the first entry in the journal just before your current one. 


How many days ago was this entry? What strikes you about it? 


Continue to read through the entries from the first page of either your current journal or from the first page of your last journal to the most recent entry you have made in your current journal. Highlight or underline what jumps out at you. NOTE: this activity may take more than just one sitting. 


Answer these journal prompts: 


What patterns are making themselves known? 


How do I feel about my progress? 


From looking back, is it evident that there is something I am being asked to restart? To end? To let go of? What specifically? 
For me today, doing this exercise, the first entry of my last journal was three full months ago. When I read through the entries, the patterns I see today fit into three overarching categories: one, it is clear that I was in a space of receiving (new work, thank you gifts, etc.); two, I continue to ask God for help and receive guidance to see the best in everyone; and three, there are a lot of entries about my dog’s behavior and the realization of needing to problem solve on his behalf. As a result of looking back, it moved me to immediately find a new vet, helped me recognize the enormity of receiving small acts of kindness, and pushed me to guided meditation. 


How often do I journal? Why? 


Do I feel called to journal more or less or not at all? Why? 
There is no right or wrong answer here. For me, I really find rest on the pages and therefore I feel called to journal every day. But sometimes, I just can’t get to it; the reason is often that there is something else pressing me for my time. Generally, it is only for a short period, like a few days, that I do not journal. And because I keep my current journal on the coffee table and remember to carry it with me whenever I go away, I have a constant invitation to get back to the stillness that begins with empty pages. 


How do I feel about the blank pages in my journal? 


God*, what else do I need to know about this? 
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! 


How does God* show up on my pages? 
For me, if I write down what comes as answers to what God wants me to know, this is how God shows up in my journal. God also shows up on my pages when creativity strikes. Of course, there is not one answer in doing this. That is the beauty of this relationship. It is unique to each one of us and the answers may be found in the stillness of writing, another blessing of spiritual journaling. 
One last thing that I have found: blank pages can sometimes feel daunting, and the only way to overcome this feeling is to keep writing. I like the words of American monk Thomas Merton from Thoughts in Solitude…. God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me…. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you…. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.

*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.


Marie Higgins

Author bio:Book Cover Sprouting   Spirituality 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.