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Journaling heart and soul News

3 Reasons Why Everybody Should Attend a Therapeutic Writing Retreat.

Last Friday, 9 women gathered in lovely Stroud NSW for the first ever ‘Write To Rise’ Therapeutic Writing Retreat. These women all came for varied reasons and left with something unexpected. As they worked both together and alone, they discovered the power of honest expressive writing and the clarity and life enhancement it brings.

‘Write to Rise’ is a program I wrote to not only introduce others to therapeutic writing but to showcase the role narrative plays in our lives. The takeaway, ‘to restore we must re-story’, how to do that is where the writing comes in. As I reflect on this day, for the purpose of both celebrating it and improving the program, I can see great reward in a retreat of this nature. Here are three reasons why I think everyone should consider attending a therapeutic writing retreat. 

Write To Rise Therapeutic Day Retreat
  • To step out of routine and reflect on life.

Most of us live full lives. Busting out of the daily 9-5 and taking time to reflect on what is working or not working, as well as focusing on the emotional or psychological blocks that prevent us from processing pain, fulfilling our potential, and finding the fulfillment we seek, is worth upsetting the routine.  As we write, prompted by points of view, questions, quotes or the sensory details we find in nature, we start to see patterns, and the steps we could take to move forward. Re-reading, reflecting and analyzing our work is an important step in therapeutic writing. Having time to do this makes retreating extremely valuable. 

  • To learn skills that will improve life and foster well being. Therapeutic writing is directed. It usually starts  with a prompt or exercise. Certain techniques foster certain outcomes. It is writing based around healing, development and growth and seeks to highlight what can be found in the moment as well as how to move forward. It is more purposeful than simply keeping a diary or dumping your stress, anger and anxiety onto the page. It is a way to practice self compassion, foster gratitude, solve problems, build strategy, nurture mind and spirit, enhance creativity and imagination, record  dreams and of course, process pain and loss. Retreating for me is not only  about leaving with a fuzzy feeling in your chest, but also with tools to take home and use when needed. 
  • To make new connections and foster bonds.

Retreating gathers like-minded people. There is nothing like coming together with those interested in similar things, and walking through similar seasons. In the case of this writing retreat, (‘Write to Rise’)  all that gathered were processing hard things, keen to discover how to heal and the role that writing could take in that journey. There were tears, and by the end of the day, exhaustion. However, there were also multiple ‘aha’ moments and the discovery of truths (no matter how painfully liberating that may be). We wrote in musical silence, had some laughs over lunch, engaged in discussion and deep conversation. Some car pooled with friends, others bravely ventured on their own, but all had a seat in the open circle. How sweet it is to retreat with those who are committed to connection and consideration. 

Already I have had numerous people say that they would love to come to the next retreat (whenever that may be). That makes me extremely excited not only because I love coaching people and showing  how to use writing to heal and rise, but also because I believe in reflection, connection and the joy found in writing your own wild and beautiful story. 

For news on upcoming retreats and to receive monthly progressive writing prompts sign up here. 

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heart and soul Journaling

How to find the wisdom you need.

From time to time we all need a little guidance. Seeking the wisdom you need from those who have experienced what you are going through and have  demonstrated sound judgement is invaluable. You may have a mentor, a mother or father figure you go to when you are stuck and  in need of some life advice. You may regard the words and instruction of Plato, Rumi, Thoreau, Aurelius, or Solomon.  You may turn to the pages of a religious text such as the Quran or the Tanakh. 

But have you considered mining the truths that hide inside your own heart? 

How to find the wisdom you need.

I often say, ‘the most life changing words you’ll ever read are your own.’ This statement can be misunderstood if left unexplained. And so, let me clarify. 

When we write about anything with authenticity, we are able to read our own true thoughts and feelings. Knowing what we really think and feel allows us to be emotionally aware of what we need and want, don’t need and don’t want. We can also discover negative thought patterns that cause unnecessary emotional suffering or simply prevent us from growth. This is powerful because it is only when we identify negative thoughts, that we can change them.

Wisdom is truth applied. To gain clarity and find direction, we must first understand what is going on in the heart and mind; we must seek to pinpoint the lies we have adopted as truth. Distinguishing between what is true and what is a lie may seem tricky, however, it is less difficult once it is understood  that lying is an act of fear and truth is always grounded in love. 

Poet David Whyte says, ‘One of the great disciplines of life is having the ability to ask beautiful questions. Beautiful questions cultivate a beautiful mind.’ 

Once you have written down your thoughts and feelings and identified the truth from lies, you can take what is on your page and let it lead you to ask a beautiful question. Beautiful questions are those that always elicit beautiful answers. They lead to wisdom, peace and exciting possibility. 

For example, consider one who wrote ‘I feel rejected’. One may be tempted to spend time trying to figure out if this feeling is true or false, however, the question, ‘Have I been rejected?’ holds within it the possibility of more pain and lacks empowerment.

In this case, a beautiful and better question would be, ‘Now that this door has been closed in front of me, what possibilities can I see?’ If the answer is ‘I see no possibilities.’ This is a good indication that one is in need of processing grief. Although this answer does not seem very beautiful, it does provide insight and direction, which leads to a beautiful outcome. 

Quote, ‘Where there is love there is life.’ Gandhi

Often when people are unsure of what to do next, whether they should go right or left, they take out a piece of paper and write down the pros and cons; the good and bad things that will come from their decision. Although this can be helpful, I suggest you go a little deeper.

Good and bad can be situational; dependent on one’s circumstance. However, this can not be said of love and fear. Instead of listing pros and cons, list the things that align with a loving intention and the things you are afraid of. This is helpful because wisdom, truth, goodness are all branches of the same tree. The love tree. Wise words are found by lime-lighting truth which is always grounded in love.

So to recap.

Wisdom can be found through first journaling authentic thoughts and emotions. Next, pinpoint possible negative thought patterns and lies that are disguised  as truths.  Allow what is discovered on the page to lead you to ask a beautiful question that will yield beautiful answers and outcomes. To take it a step further, make a list based on love and fear. Use this list to help you identify what is wise, truthful and loving. 

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Journaling Therapeutic Writing Prompts

7 June journal prompts to finish the year strong.

Journaling can be used for both reflection and projection. It can help us remember where we have been, what decisions we have made, why we made those decisions, how we have coped with challenges and what we have learnt from our recent experiences. It can reveal how we really feel, what we really want and the obstacles that stand in the way of achieving our desires. 

Although we can not control every aspect of our lives, these June journal prompts are crafted to help you be responsible for what you can control, navigate your next steps well and finish the year strong. 

What has been the thing you have enjoyed most so far this year?

Don’t think too hard about this one. It could be your job, your hobby, a new or old friendship, an event or vacation, a spiritual practice or a simple delight found  in your everyday life. This prompt helps point to not only the pleasure experienced, but also to the plan you should consider. What is life for if not to be enjoyed. To finish the year strong you will need to pack it with good times, the things that amuse you.

What goals did you set this year? How would you say that you are progressing with them?

You may want to resist this question. But don’t. It may cause you to feel guilt, shame or disappointment, but remember there is no room to judge your emotions on the page. Simply write out the goals you set and then without excuse assess if you are progressing towards achieving them. It’s a simple yes or no. If the answer is no, be brave enough to look deeper into why you have not made any ground. If your goals have changed, you may like to set another set of goals to be achieved by the end of the year. 

What does success mean to you?

I love this question. I love it because it allows us to define success rather than have it defined for us. It is important that your goals reflect what success means to you. Is success financial gain? Is it being praised by your peers? Is it spiritual growth? Is it community impact? Is it healthy relationships? Is it freedom to do whatever you want? Answering this question will help you move through the lessons you need to learn and towards your true north.

Write a few lines about each of the following areas of your life. Note the things you are proud of and the things you would like to change. 

Health. This includes your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. 

Relationships. This includes, romantic relationships, friendships, work relationships and other family connections.

Finances. This includes paying off debt, budgeting, investments, and your attitude towards money.

Creativity. This includes following your curiosities, solving problems, improving your craft and being inspired. 

Soul. This includes finding alignment, self-love, peace of mind, connecting to a higher power and being content. 

What area of your life do you feel needs the most focus in the coming months?

After answering question 4 you will be able to see what area of your life needs the most focus in the coming months. Write down a few ways you will do this. Remember it’s all about time and action. Select the time you will set aside to focus on this area and the action you will take within that time frame.

Imagine it is New Year’s Eve 2022. What do you want to be able to say about this year?

In light of the fact that we are still living in a pandemic and there are lots of concerning things going on in the world, many would answer this question with two words, ‘I survived.’ Although this answer is valad, think of something you would like to say that is in your control and would put a smile on your face,

Again, imagine it is New Year’s Eve 2022. What do you want to be able to say about yourself?

In essence this question is asking, ‘What could you do that would make you feel proud?’ The best way to answer it is to write out the kind of person you want to be and then take a look at the things you can practically do to cultivate personal growth. Do you want to overcome a fear? Improve your communication skills? Become more loving? Increase your capacity? Give more to others? Write down what you would like to say about yourself.

If you enjoyed these journal prompts and you would like to further engage in writing for therapeutic purposes, consider booking a ‘Write to Rise’ session with me, or taking a closer look at ‘The Remains of Burning Therapeutic Journal’ poetry and writing prompts for processing pain and loss. Available from bookshops.

Categories
life lessons Journaling

8 ways you can support yourself through pain and loss.

Firstly, let me  say, I am a certified therapeutic writing coach, not a therapist.  As a therapeutic writing coach I am unable to diagnose or work in depth with psychological or emotional health concerns. I focus on helping others improve their lives through the practice of therapeutic writing. The eight ways you can support yourself through pain and loss discussed in this blog post have been curated through study, research and personal experience. 

We often seek to know how we can support those in our lives who are going through hard times. However, learning how to support ourselves is just as important. Care from our loved ones can do wonders, but real progress happens when we show up for ourselves, take time to grieve and do the brave work needed to heal.

Once I realised that I was the one I was waiting for, I felt empowered to create my own healing plan. This looked like extended time spent in nature, journaling, counselling, nurturing my creativity, time with trusted friends, contemplative prayer and reading, water and exercise.

I also became mindful of my surroundings, was careful to not judge my emotions, became selective in who I took advice from, was open to receiving practical help when I needed it and cried a lot.

None of these things provided a quick fix. We all know healing doesn’t work like that. I don’t think I’ll ever be done with the restorative process, simply because we live in an imperfect world. In saying that, it is clear that learning how to support ourselves through pain and loss is vital to become our true best. And it all starts with being present.

Be present.

Although distracting ourselves from pain is tempting, we need to be present to it. This means turning towards it and gradually moving closer, step by step, till eventually we are able to enter into it. The only way to move beyond it, is the walk through it. There is no road around, no tunnel under, no way above – only through. We must feel it, before we can be free of it. 

Cultivate your surroundings.

Our surroundings can assist the healing process. Good surroundings make us feel safe and calm. Beautiful sights, sounds and scents can create spaces that nurture and care for our body, soul and mind. Being intentional about what we watch and listen to is beneficial not only to our mental health but also to our physical and emotional well being. For me, this looks like purposely putting myself in the path of beauty. Propping my camping chair beside the lake and watching the sun go down, filling my house with flowers and plants, listening to orchestral music while walking beachside, and being attentive to the wonders happening in my own garden are all ways I seek to bring more beauty into my life.

Validate your experience.

When processing pain it’s hard not to judge how we feel. This is because we have learnt that certain emotions are bad, and to feel them makes us bad too. While some emotions do have a negative effect on us and those around us, to feel negative emotions is to be human. It is important to know that feeling an emotion and acting upon it are two different things. Whether it is shame, anger, frustration, guilt, resentment, sadness or jealousy it must be felt, noted and validated through nurture and understanding without condemnation. 

Write and reframe your personal narrative.

Journaling has been imperative in my healing journey. Numerous studies have proven the value of therapeutic writing. Research shows it strengthens mental, emotional, and physical health, by reducing stress, regulating emotions, boosting memory and improving overall wellbeing. Writing through pain is a way to not only dump negative emotion but also to reframe personal narrative through observing unhelpful beliefs and lies. For those seeking a guided journaling experience, ‘The Remains of Burning’ poetry and writing prompts to process pain and loss, is a tool I created to assist healing through journaling.

Avoid advice.

Obviously when I say avoid advice, I mean that we can limit the amount of people we give permission to speak into our lives. Accommodating a myriad of opinions about what happened to us, how we should feel and what we can do next can be exhausting. It is wise to shut out some voices and prioritise others. Having a few trusted confidants versus listening to anyone and everyone helps us  to feel safe and prevents the unnecessary triggering of pain.

Ask for help.

Pain and loss do not only have an effect on our physical, emotional and physiological state. They can also change our social connections, relationships, financial circumstances  and future goals. Asking for practical help while you deal with the fall out is okay. Maybe there is someone who can provide child or domestic support. We can support ourselves by asking for what we need.

Seek professional guidance.

Seeing a psychologist, therapist or counsellor is commendable. Although it is important to know the right help may not always be convenient. Finding a professional suited to address your concerns can take some time and adjustment. When it comes to pain and loss, it may be beneficial to seek a therapist and counsellor who  specialises in grief and trauma. The important thing to remember is if the therapist is not the right fit for you it does not mean you are at fault. 

Intentionally increase care and nourishment.

Basically, spoil yourself. Create extra time for the things you like. Buy expensive bath bombs. Go for that massage. Take a nap. Order in food. Do what makes you feel beautiful. Reduce your schedule. Make more room for what you find fun. It is okay to say no to things you once did that you now find stressful. Do not feel guilty for giving yourself the time, attention and support you need.

Categories
Journaling life lessons Therapeutic Writing Prompts

5 Journaling prompts to help find your sweet spot.

In my most recent newsletter I shared that my first journal is just weeks away from being published. I told subscribers that in creating the journal I found my sweet spot: the marriage between what I love to do and helping others.

The sweet spot

In the newsletter I also included a few journal  prompts to help subscribers  find their sweet spot. Today I’d like to unpack these questions. So lean in lovelies, we are about to take a deep dive into the honeyed core of who you are and take a look ( if only a glance) at your very significant purpose.

1. Who are you a tad jealous of?

All my life I’ve been told that jealousy is a sin. What I was not told is that jealousy is a useful way to figure out what is in your heart.  You see, when we are jealous it is for a REASON. Usually we want to succeed in the field another is succeeding in.  Feelings of envy are in essence, nothing more than a sign that says – YOU ARE IN THE VICINITY OF YOUR PURPOSE. Think of it this way, those whom you are jealous of are doing one thing – holding up a mirror. That’s right, jealousy does not have to be about creating idols, being resentful, holding grudges or becoming bitter. Although jealousy, if left to itself, can produce these unpleasant thoughts and emotions, when harnessed, it  becomes an indication of what you want to do with your life.

2. What does a perfect day look like to you?

For many of us the answer to this question would include the people and things we love. However, when I say ‘what does a perfect day look like to you’ I’m talking about rhythm and routine . Is your perfect day fast paced, energy fueled, with your fingers in lots of pies? Maybe your perfect day looks like  being alone with time to focus and produce deep work. Do you like the surety of a fixed schedule or are you better pleased with a day that is flexible and full of variety? Your sweet spot is not just about what you do, but also, the way you do it. 

3. What energises you?

The meaning of the words introvert and extrovert are often mistaken for being associated with personality. In truth, these two words refer to where energy is sourced. Do you gain energy from solace or from interaction? From inward reflection or activity? If you are introverted you will feel refreshed by contemplation and drained by things external to you. If you are extroverted you will feel refueled when you are around people and drained by a lack of interaction. I am introverted. That means time alone revives me. What it does not mean is that I am shy or I don’t like people or I’m fearful of public speaking. In turn, extroverts are not always the life of the party and do not always have a ‘bubbly personality’. Knowing how you are energised will help you find your sweet spot.

4. What kinds of conversations do you lean into?

Imagine you are sitting in a cafe. At the table beside you are two people in deep conversation. You can hear what they are saying. You have two options. Tune them out and focus your attention on something else or lean in and indulge in their exchange. What topic(s) would they be discussing for you to want a seat at their table. What  are you insanely curious about? What are you intrigued by? What do you often find yourself googling? What are you hungry to learn about? The sweet spot is not a place in which we arrive, but a road we journey. Your sweet spot will leave you room to breathe, grow, and become.

5. Who do you empathise with the most?

It’s true that not everyone notices who you notice. Who you see is often largely dependent  on your own experiences. It’s likely that you have wisdom and insight into how to serve certain people because simply put, you’ve been there. So, Who can you relate to? What have you been through that you hope others won’t have to? How can you use the things that have hurt you to help others? Maybe you have a heart for people of a particular race or culture. Maybe the people you wish to help all have the same kinds of struggles or are in a similar season in life. Your sweet spot will be a place of impact, a place of healing, a place that benefits others as well as yourself.

Now it’s your turn, finish these sentences:-

  1. I’m a tad jealous of…
  2. My perfect day looks like…
  3. I am energised by…
  4. I lean into conversations about…
  5. I empathise most with people who…

From here, you are well on your way to figuring out what you want to put out into the world, how you will go about doing it and who it will help the most. Sweet as honey, delicious as pie!

Great News! You too can become a LOVE-Mail subscriber and receive inspirational words and writing prompts like these on the regular. That’s right, my monthly newsletter is jam-packed full of lots to think about. Sign up today and receive my FREE beautifully illustrated digital chapbook, ‘Never Far’, poetry about peace.

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Journaling life lessons

Why you should absolutely journal your dreams.

On the night of the 10th of January, as I laid my head on my pillow, I thought about a family predicament. Once again, we had to move. 

Finding a rental in a certain high school catchment area is really tricky. Good houses don’t come up often and when they do, they can be pretty pricey. I was worried, yet also watchful. Past experience told me that the most unexpected things can happen at the last minute – in a good way. One moment I think we’ll have to bunk in with my parents, or live in a caravan park, and the next, a house is offered to us. 

That night as I slept, I dreamt. (I dream a lot, well at least two or three times a week.) In my dream I saw a math equation, 25+13=38. Random? Yes, but as I woke I got the impression that it had something to do with our next house. I told my husband. He didn’t make a big deal of it. After all, it was ‘just a dream’. 

A month passed to the exact day, and well, you guessed it. We are moving to number 38. 

Some of you are not shocked. This kind of thing happens to you too. Like me, your dreams come true. Others of you think it’s a coincidence, but what are the odds really? Maybe you wish this would happen to you. Maybe you would like a few dreams to hold onto.

In November 2019, I had another dream. In it I saw things being delivered to my door. Packages wrapped in brown paper were piled high on the front patio. When I woke I wrote it down. The dream was so vivid, I had a feeling it might mean something. 

The following January, Covid 19 hit Australia. In February my husband (the main breadwinner) lost his job, and by March we were experiencing our first lockdown. Like many others, things looked dire for us.  

Slowly, objects started to turn up on the doorstep. First, a box of chocolates. Next, a stack of books. Thirdly, bread and milk, followed by an expensive designer jacket, a dyson vacuum cleaner, toilet paper, wine and cheese. We were literally living my dream. 

With the help of many earth angels (kind people) both known and unknown, we scraped through; we found our knees and then our feet, but it was my dream that helped to ease the tension. 

Why you should absolutely journal your dreams
journal your dreams

Dreams have long been associated with insight, solving problems, creativity and finding clarity. (Did you know author Stephanie Myer first dreamt the premise for her uncommonly successful novel ‘Twilight’.) I don’t know how it works. Some say it’s physiological, others deem it to be spiritual. Personally I think it’s a bit of both. Likewise, I don’t know how the telly works, but I use it, I believe in it. And I believe average Joe Blows’ and Plain Janes’ like me can be comforted and directed by dreams.

For this reason, journaling dreams is powerful. We gain a new perspective around issues that concern us and can become more in tune and at peace. Recording dreams can assist us to make decisions and explore meaning.

When I journal my dreams, firstly I write down what happened in the dream. Next, I identify how I felt in the dream and whether those feelings linger after I wake. It’s important to record even the smallest detail because those seemingly irrelevant things may add layers of meaning to the dream. For example, I once dreamt about a tree bursting with pink flowers. I had the same dream three nights in a row. I got the impression that the colour of the flowers represented ‘love/relationship’. Without this small detail of colour, the dream’s meaning would be lost. 

Dreams don’t have to be profound; mundane dreams can reveal more than we first assume. And of course, there are dreams that do mean nothing. I have dreamt about things that haven’t come true. Not all dreams become evident in real life.

And so, I encourage you to write down rather than right off your dreams. You could be onto something.