Almost everyone has spiritual experiences, but often they fade with time unless we have a vessel to contain them. A journal can be one such vessel.
I think that the hands-on experience of journaling in one’s own handwriting can itself be a spiritual practice. If you like to draw, paint, take photos or even make collages, your journal can be visual as well as verbal. I like to keep different types of journals for spiritual practice: a gratitude journal, a spiritual journal, and a dream journal. I enjoy choosing different beautiful journals for different purposes, including small ones to carry on my purse or backpack when I go on a journey (don’t forget a pen!). I think that the secret of success is to have the journal ready and have a set time and place to write in it.
The Gratitude Journal is by my bed. Before I go to sleep I like to write down things I’m grateful for that day. They can be big or small, sublime or simple. Writing them down usually makes me think of more an more reasons to be grateful, which is a wonderful way to be.
I also keep a Spiritual Journal, where I record my spiritual experiences, Jewish holiday thoughts, Torah study insights, synchronicities (meaningful coincidences), and so on. I like to purchase a beautiful blank book and to write these treasures down for future reflection (Although I write in this at different times, I like to do it in after morning prayer/meditation).
A Dream Journal: I keep a small notebook and pen by my bed to write down my dreams upon awaking. If I only remember fragments, I write those down, too. The Talmud (Tractate Berakhot 55-56) suggests that there is no one way to interpret a dream, but that dream interpretation is an interaction between the content of the dream and the meaning we articulate about it. By keeping track of dreams, we may start to notice patterns and engage in reflections about what the symbols mean for us personally. Some Jewish mystics suggested a practice of she’elat chalom, a dream inquiry, in which we go to sleep with an intention of seeking guidance or inspiration from dreams. Sometimes I notice the the images in my dreams find their way into my waking life, or even my Torah study, enriching both.
For more on dreams, explore this pathway (post) by Rabbi David Markus in the Gateway of Darkness.
Consider and Comment: Do you keep any kind of spiritual, gratitude or dream journal? Would love to hear about your journaling experiences in the comments.
Featured Image: Journal from Peter Pauper Press, cover art from the Catalan Atlas (1375) by Abraham Cresques (Spain). I was attracted to this journal and later learned that the design came from an atlas of a famous Jewish cartographer.