Posted by: Bruce Black | October 1, 2011

Learning to Keep a Journal

My journal is an offering of prayer.

It’s a keep-sake book, holding memories, containing artifacts of days long ago, a record of dreams and desires that may or may never be fulfilled.

It’s a lens reflecting whatever comes under my gaze–whatever I happen to notice at the moment–a collection of things seen, a tribute to passing time.

On some days I fill its pages with gratitude.

On other days I fill it with fears and doubts and uncertainties.

I fill its pages with whatever I might overhear at the grocery store or the movies, whatever I might think about as I’m taking out the trash after dinner or washing dishes or waiting to pick up my daughter after school.

I never know before beginning what I’ll write.

Just like here, on this page, now, I never expected to write these words in this order, but this is what appeared beneath my pen today.

Every day is different.

Part of learning to keep a journal is learning to let go, just as we have to learn to let go of each pose and move into the next one.

Keeping a journal involves learning to accept whatever comes, openly, uncritically, without judgment.

It’s not about thinking in a rational, linear fashion. A journal doesn’t have to be straight-forward. It can meander, backtrack, lose its way.

Keeping a journal is about letting your mind go free, giving your thoughts permission to wander, learning how to circumambulate, make detours, backtrack, and re-examine something that you might have noticed (or might not have noticed) a moment before.

There’s no rush to get anywhere in your journal, no need to be somewhere else.

You just have to learn how to be here.



Practice Journal:

Use your journal today to offer a prayer or to make a list of the things that you are grateful for.

Use it to record your grocery list. Or errands. Or books that you want to read.

Use it to remember what you noticed on your morning walk. Or what you thought about as your poses unfolded on your mat.

Try not to control what happens when you begin to write.

Just let the words come–whatever words want to come–and welcome them.

If words won’t come, just sit quietly and notice your thoughts with your journal open. Perhaps some of your thoughts will make their way onto the page. Perhaps not. You can always try again tomorrow.

Write for 10 minutes. See what happens.



  1. I’ve always loved writing, but keeping a journal with pen and paper never really worked for me because i just ended up filling the pages with complicates still-lifes. Plus the internet can be sketchy sometimes for me so an online journal wouldn’t be best…do you have any suggestions on how to keep a journal?

    • Journaling can take any form that helps you get the words down. You mention that you’ve always loved writing. That may serve as the key for finding your way into journaling. If you’re more comfortable writing (off-line) on a computer, then use a computer, and keep the pieces that you write in a Journal file. See what happens. Explore different options. Enjoy the process of discovering what might work best for you. Good luck.

  2. Bruce,
    I love all the wonderfully expanding examples of what can fill a journal entry: memories, dreams, desires, gratitude, fears, doubts, and uncertainties. That’s quite a list! I also love what you say: Keeping a journal involves learning to accept whatever comes, openly, uncritically, without judgment. Yes, journaling is just an all around terrific practice, unfettered, and unfiltered. 🙂

    I have chosen your post, Learning to Keep a Journal, as the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on 10/3/11 for all things journaling on Twitter. I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog and website, Refresh with Dawn Herring, and Refresh Journal:

    You’re welcome to join us for #JournalChat Live on Thursdays at 4 CST/2 PST on Twitter; this week our topic is how journaling changes over time to reflect our life experiences.

    Thanks again for such an eye-opening view of your journaling experience.

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    JournalWriter Freelance
    Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter

  3. Thanks so much, Dawn, for the kind words. Glad you enjoyed the posting. And I’m especially grateful to you for selecting it as the #JournalChat Pick of the Day (on 10/3/11) on Twitter. That’s lovely. Good luck with your own journal… and with your #JournalChat Live.

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