Celebrating the Failure of My Spiritual Journal
Keeping a spiritual journal may seem like a good way to record your spiritual progress. But what if the pages stay blank?
I’ve been trying to keep two journals. One is an anything journal, the other a spiritual journal.
My anything journal is devoted to a variety of topics—really anything that’s on my mind or in my heart as I begin each day. I started this journal many years ago and find that the pages fill up quickly.
I started my spiritual journal about two years ago to record my thoughts about spirituality and how I experience it in my daily life. This sounded like a good idea, but the pages of my spiritual journal remain mostly empty. Words keep failing me.
As a writer, words are the tools of my trade. I’m comfortable with words. I use them all the time—in my writing, in my thinking, in my talking. After all, what’s a life—or a journal—without words?
I stare at the empty pages of my spiritual journal and ask, “Is spirituality real? Does it really exist?” I turn to my anything journal for possible clues. I look for hints of spirituality in my rambling essays about anything.
I open one of my journals and see an entry dated June 9, 2008. On that day, my entry focused on insights about nature: “Nature doesn’t lie. It presents life as it is—sometimes messy, sometimes violent. The way nature works is beyond my control. I see how the wind can blow at any time and in any direction. The lesson for me is to walk with the wind, not fight against it.”
Wait! Is what I wrote about nature a glimpse into the meaning of spirituality? I randomly select other entries in my anything journal. On Feb. 12, 1997, I wrote about the passing of time: “It’s all one—one vacation, one sabbatical, one life. I may experience it in stages, but it’s really all one. And it’s not just my life—it’s all of life. Everything is connected—human life, animal life, things we call nonliving—even the past, the present, the future. It’s all one!”
A similar theme appears in my journal entry for Aug. 22, 2010: “My thoughts and experiences of today—of the now—flow into and become a part of a much greater whole.”
What are these entries telling me? As I continue reading, I see that some entries focus on insights and questions: what I yearn for, what I hope for, and what I wonder about. Some entries speak of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. And some describe moments of joy, encounters with the unexpected, and blessings I’ve received.
I once thought that keeping a journal over time would become a record of my life. But now, as I reread my entries, I realize that my journal isn’t really a recording of what I’ve done and experienced in life. Rather than recording my life, I’ve been exploring the meaning of it all. Is this what spirituality is all about? If so, I don’t need two journals. I can abort the spiritual journal and focus on a spiritual journey.
We don’t take two separate journeys through life: an anything journey and a spiritual journey. There’s just one journey with many dimensions. With this in mind, I can now face the blank pages in my spiritual journal without feeling anxious. Instead of trying to fill this journal with words about spirituality, I’m comfortable with the idea of filling my everyday life with spiritual wonder and wonderings.
I now realize that spirituality isn’t something to be pinned down, that words will never adequately explain or describe what we experience as the spiritual dimension of our lives. While I can’t define spirituality, I do experience it—usually in moments of silence and listening. As I listen, it’s not words I hear, but something beyond words.
Spirituality takes us into the realm of mystery—yet, it’s not something apart from life, something we can isolate and inspect with an inquiring eye. Spirituality isn’t a specimen to be dissected and scrutinized. It’s an energy embedded in the ebb and flow of life.
I wanted to keep a spiritual journal to gain some clarity about the spiritual aspects of my life. The keeping of a spiritual journal, however, isn’t working for me. I’m failing in my efforts to make this happen.
This failure, however, is teaching me more about spirituality than words on a page could ever reveal. I now realize that my everyday journey is a spiritual journey—that my struggles and blessings, my wonderings and insights, my understandings and misunderstandings—all of these and more serve as multishaped segments forming the mosaic of life. This mosaic, with all its jagged pieces, reflects a spirituality that can never be captured in words.
Keep reading: Discover how to use journaling to tap into your inner wisdom.