Create More Heart Light

Nurturing the quiet light in your heart can help you see the beauty in yourself and in the world, can boost your eagerness to seek possibility, and bring more zest, more love of life and appreciation for it. It is free and already available to you, but you may not be tending it.

A rudder for your boat in the rough seas of change

We live in a time of great change and the noise of conflicting directions. Every day there is more information, more news, more calls for our money, our time, our attention. Our ability to connect electronically is growing so much faster than our ability to comprehend our interdependence. There is more information available to us everyday than we can sort through, and no time to understand what it means or to use it. The “always changing” and “never ceasing” nature of existence means there’s a kind of background ache to living, especially when circumstances or events have lowered our resistance. Coming back to the quiet light in your heart that never completely goes away, letting yourself rest there, replenishes your strength even when your heart is sore. Remembering to look for the quiet light in the hearts of others transforms a walk or a visit to a cafe and begins to heal the sense of disconnection. When you steer your boat using that quiet light, letting it be your navigator, you have a better chance of smoothing your passage through the choppy waters of change.

“The state of one’s heart inevitably shapes one’s life; it is ultimately the place where everything is decided.”      John O’Donohue

Ways to heal the heart and cultivate your heart light

  • Place your hand over your heart and feel the warmth from your hand permeate your chest. Be aware of your breathing without seeking to change it. Close your eyes and imagine a soft light in your heart. When your heart warms enough that you can feel it without your hand over it, you can take your hand away. Rest in your heart’s light and warmth. Repeat as needed.
  • To work with difficult changes, first evoke your heart’s light, then review the changes from the centre of that light.
  • To build a sense of our interdependence, first evoke your heart’s light, then hold the person or situation in that light until you sense the connection, then wish them well.
  • When your light is low, first evoke your heart’s light, then consider each person, situation, or thing you are grateful for in your life. As you think of each thing, bring it into you heart’s light and acknowledge the way the person, situation or thing has added to that light. When you are done for the moment, thank each one for helping you grow your heart’s light.
  • When your heart is full, first evoke your heart’s light, then send its quiet light, as a blessing to family, friends, those in need, and all beings everywhere.

As you become more aware of your heart’s light you will discover other ways to cultivate it.

Join the discussion: What helps you stay aware of your heart’s light? How have you healed a bruised heart? What makes your heart’s light shine?

Lessons From the Dark

When I think of the dark, my association is not immediately positive. I don’t often remember the importance of the dark, of down times, yet the dark is a part of dreaming, of the creative process, and often contains insights.

The first time my view of the dark was challenged was when I read M. Esther Harding’s The Value and Meaning of Depression. I read it more than forty years ago; it remains one of those amazing moments when a an idea opens a whole new way of perceiving the world. The need for times of darkness, the idea that darkness can be a source of nourishment, an incubator, a storeroom of nutrients, opened many possibilities I hadn’t seen.

It helped me begin to approach feelings i usually avoided: fear, anger, sorrow, low energy — feelings I’d associated with darkness.

Exploring the depths

The idea that depression could be a natural part of life gave me permission to explore my own depths.

We live in a world that constantly calls for our active presence and engagement. Our electronic gadgets have multiplied the calls on our attention and intensified the need to be constantly on, constantly giving out, constantly available.

All the more reason to spend some time dwelling in our depths and befriending our “dark”. Fleeing from our fears, anger, or sorrow means the insights they offer us and the energy they contain are lost.

If we learn to move toward our darkness it has gifts for us. Sometimes we don’t feel strong enough to do this on our own. Finding the right support is important, whether you build it internally, or seek it externally. You want your encounter with the dark to be healing.

Help befriending the dark

Look for someone who is

  • Trustworthy
  • Experienced
  • Oriented to supporting you
  • Aims to help you rather than do it to you or for you
  • Open to what is (doesn’t have a frozen point of view that all experience fits into)

While these qualities are ones you to look for in an external guide, you can apply them to yourself too:

Trustworthy: Do you trust yourself to explore? If not, why not. What do you feel you need that you don’t have? What areas need more development? What needs to be removed?

Experienced: What experience do you have with yourself or with others? What experience do you need? Are there experiences you need to heal before you start? What’s your track record with this? What patterns and habits help you deal and which ones get in the way?

Oriented to support: What’s your relationship like with you? Is your inner voice more likely to be critical or a cheerleader? Does your inner voice need an attitude adjustment before you start?

Lets you do it: Does your inner guide take over? Acknowledge and appreciate your progress and efforts?

Openness to what is: Are you able to suspend judgment and simply inquire without assuming?

Dreaming and the dark

The unconscious provides material for our dreams and our dreams can express the wisdom of the unconscious.

I’ve recently begun a four-session dream group with Trevor Simpson,and have found the process both fascinating and useful. I am back to remembering dreams and I love the sense that there are riches in dark each night.

Skills for working with dreams, openness and patience, inquiring without assuming, compassion, gentleness toward oneself, and the ability to use focused but soft attention (attention that isn’t trying to force meaning from what you are paying attention to) are useful in many areas, not only in working with my dreams.

The dream work session helped me remember M. Esther Harding and the need to befriend my fears, anger, sorrow and gain a better understanding of times when I feel less energy or interest in the world.

Dr. Jean Raffa is A Jungian Analyst who often references Harding. Her website is devoted to accessing our inner wisdom.

Join the discussion: What have you found helpful when exploring the dark or exploring your dreams?


When You Don’t Know What You Want

• Beginning with the end in mind,

• End point visualization,

• Vision.

These essentials of planning, goal setting, and project design depend on being able to say what you want, and there’s the rub. What if you don’t know what you really, really want?

Choice is an issue

When there are only a few choices it’s easier to commit. When you can see dozens of possibilities with more showing up all the time, it can create a stall and retreat scenario.

Tools for tracking what you want (vision hunting tips)

1. Be aware of when you are happy. Happiness provides a marker. Make a note, write it down when you feel it, or write about the moments of happiness at the end of each day.

2. Metta, or loving kindness, is a Theravadan meditation practice, and often begins with the phrases, “May I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I be free of suffering.” Acknowledging and affirming these basic human desires, for happiness, peace, and freedom from suffering, grounds us, let’s us sigh and settle into ourselves and helps to concentrate the mind.

When I ask, “what do I want” from this place, one that feels deeper in my heart, and quieter, the answers I receive are more concrete and immediate, and the actions I need to take are close to me.

3. Have patience with the process. Various answers may float to the surface as you hold the question in your heart. “What do I really want?” As answers come to you, ask, “Is this it?” When you feel it’s a yes, write it down.

If you have a friend or a partner you may want to work on this together. First decide who will ask and who will respond. Then one person asks the question, “What do you want?” and records the responder’s answers in the responder’s notebook. Do this for at least five minutes.

As a further step you can ask your partner to slowly read your responses back to you. Listen to each one and let it sink in. When you are done, take a moment and circle or highlight the answers that most struck you when you heard them. Then perform the same questioning and reading service for you partner.

After you have both had a turn, share what struck you most, or how you felt when being asked “What do you want?”, or what came up as you heard your answers.

The answers you received are like those dried sponge animals that you drop into water to see fully. Right now they are dry. To “water” an answer, reflect on it over several days and write about it in your journal. Once you have done this with the answers that had the most meaning for you, it’s likely you will know what you want, what you really, really want.

Join the conversation: Is it easy or hard for you to know what you want? How do you find out what you really want?


Finding Power for a Strong Finish

New paper, pens and books, and a fresh start every year for more than two decades means September brings me a rush of energy and a feeling of excitement even though I am no longer in school. My curiosity is strong and I can’t wait to see what’s coming, to meet old friends and discover new ones. The beauty of this, now that I work on a different schedule, one more oriented to the calendar year, is it gives me a boost of energy to finish projects, reach goals, and tackle year-end challenges.

Making this Time Matter

Each year I set eight to ten goals for the year; they’re the dreams I’ve committed to realizing. Each quarter I review progress. Now I am a month away from my third quarter review. So far I am doing pretty well with five out of the nine goals for the year, but I know I am going to have to bring more focus and energy to the four that I haven’t made much progress on if I am going to achieve them this year.

Goal Review Checklist

Before I revision my plan for the last four months of the year I use this list to ensure I’ll use my time and energy wisely.

  • Is this still an important goal for this year?
  • Do I have the resources I need to complete it? (time, tools, information, network)
  • Do I need to modify it in some way based on activity so far this year?
  • What impact will completing this goal have on other goals; on my purpose?
  • What values will the work to complete this goal cultivate?
  • If I haven’t started, why not?
  • What are the obstacles? How can I remove or minimize them?
  • What are the supports? How can I leverage them?

September’s Back to School Energy

Before we went back to school we gathered supplies, shifted from summer’s more casual clothes, savoured our last days of freedom, and geared up for challenge and changes ahead. Prepare for the last third of the year with the same sense of occasion:

  • Pull together what you’ll need to finish
  • Find an everyday symbol of rededication to the goal
  • Give yourself some time to savour what you have right now; let it nourish and refresh you
  • Signal a fresh start
  • Pace yourself for a strong finish by the end of the year

Publish Your 2012 Goals

Here are the four goals I need to focus on to finish 2012 with a ticker-tape parade:

  • Complete Story Is a State of Mind, Sarah Selecky’s great online short story course. Find out more here:
  • Restart my exercise routine
  • Complete the first draft of my novel
  • Publish an article or story

Okay, over to you. Where do you find extra power to help you finish? What do you want to accomplish before January 1, 2013? Letting folks know what you are working on can provide more motivation and accountability.

Join the discussion: Let us know your power-finish tips, and your goals. Give us updates on your progress here.


Value-Based Leadership: Making the Invisible, Visible

You teach company values during orientation and when providing performance reviews, and the marketing department has given you a set of value posters for your office wall, but do you know how to make them come alive in your own life? If you don’t, it’s going to be an uphill run to help others in the organization bring values to their operations.

Values are part of the invisible world that creates worth for stakeholders. The clearer they are and the more you work with them, the easier it gets to measure their impact and see them embodied in day-to-day activity.

10 ways to move a value off the office wall and into your life.

  • Reflect on what the value means to you in writing.
  • Identify someone who you feel embodies the value in their day-to-day work and talk with them about this.
  • Identify someone in your industry or field that embodies the value. Interview them about this and develop an article.
  • Describe what happens when the value isn’t present.
  • Identify actions which embody the value, and discover how you could add them to your work day.
  • Keep a values journal and note when you experience the value. Describe the situation, what happened, any action you took, and how you felt.
  • Once you’ve made progress with bringing the value to life, talk to five people who you work with, explain you’ve been working on the value, and ask them for feedback about your connection with/embodiment of the value.
  • Ask someone who you feel really understands the value to mentor you on embodying it.
  • Identify a situation that needs more of the value, check to see if those in the situation agree, and then work with them to develop it.
  • Write an article on the value or ask to speak about it at a meeting.

If you begin by increasing your own awareness of the value, and then work to put it into action, you provide leadership, and become a model that makes the invisible, visible.

Join the conversation: How have you gone about embodying a value? What practices have helped you bring from the invisible to the visible world?

Finding Treasure

Probably the last place you’d think to look for treasure is in the pages of your calendar, but there could be insights waiting for you there.

Recruiters know that past performance is usually the best indication of what will happen in the future (that’s why they’re always asking you to “tell me about a time when . . . “), so it’s a good idea to become more familiar with what you’ve done; to be able to talk about your work and your life with some objectivity and perspective.

It can help you find your own jewels of insight.

Goal setting and planning processes often start by asking you to review the previous period. In business the period could be the previous day, week, month, quarter or fiscal year. If you are in a more personal mode, think about what started this “period”.

Think like a biographer: Picasso had a Blue Period, Winston Churchill had The War Years, your mother had before kids/after kids, Dylan had acoustic/electric.

Being able to look back on your day, plan your week, and get a sense of how you are doing based on your own measures can be helpful for creative types as well as those in more traditional businesses.

You will need:

A notebook or paper and pen

Your calendar, datebook, or journal

Several hours

Before you start

Decide on the period for the first review

A quarter (three months), six months or a year or some other period that is most appropriate for this planning session.

For example, if your situation has been the same for some time choosing the previous, 3 to 12 months might work well.

If you’ve just been through a transition, for instance just graduated or retired, had your first child, or come back from a long trip you might want to look at the whole period that preceded the transition, or the most appropriate period for you could be related to health, to emotions, or to a major creative project.

Goals, dreams or wishes for the period you will review

If you had some goals for the period, whether formal or informal, it’s good to have a list. If you didn’t have goals, can you remember what you wanted?

Ideas to consider as you begin

Considering the questions below can help you uncover the connections between what you have now and what you hoped to have.

  • Happiness/Disappointment

When were you happy during the previous period?

What things disappointed you?

Is there anything you do every day that connects with what made you happy?

Is your source of happiness connected to the goals you set? (If not, why not?)

What contributed to your unhappiness?

  • Resources

Look at the resources that you found most useful. What helped and supported you? What spurred growth and challenged you? Where did you learn? What resources do you maintain or use that aren’t contributing much? How’s your network of friends, colleagues and champions?

  • Contribution

Where do you feel you made the most important contribution?

  • Luck/Plans

When did you feel lucky? What happened with plans? What happened without plans?

  • Vision

Did you have a vision?

Did you have an idea of the endpoint?

How did that go?

  • Heart’s Desire

What’s tucked away in your heart for later?

  • Process/Cycles/Tracking/Measures

How did you know you were on or off track for success?

  • Obstacles/Strategy

What obstacles did you know you faced? Did you have a plan? How did it work?

What came up that you didn’t expect?

  • Acknowledgement

How did you respond to achieving a goal?

How did you respond when it wasn’t working?

What do you want to acknowledge about yourself or your effort?

What do you want to acknowledge about others?

  • Resources

What kinds of resources did you use?

What resources were available to you?

Where you able to maintain your resources?

Did you develop any new resources?

What resources aren’t worth maintaining?

How do you show appreciation for resources?

Using your treasures; marking the holes

Once you’ve worked through the questions go through your notes and mark your treasures, things you want to celebrate or integrate into the plans you’re making now.

Then go through and mark the holes, the information about obstacles, mistakes, omissions, the things that got in the way during the previous period. These are sometimes even more valuable for future plans.

As you begin to set or refine goals for the next period use your buried treasure and the holes you discovered to bring depth and context to your strategy.

Using a log

I’ve been using a creative log and find tracking my creative work each day a motivator. This way I can’t drift through a day or two without realizing I haven’t done any creative work. Because my week is focused more on producing work than meeting with others I can use a simple format: Just the date and the creative work I did that day.

Join the conversation: How do you track your ideas/projects/goals? Do you set aside time to work on goals? Do you have goals? If you don’t like goals, I’d love to know what keeps you from using them.

10 Steps to Reconnect with Work You Love


A year after deciding not to pursue HR work I have a better idea of what snuffed the flame of engagement after a long career when I loved the work.

I began in HR in a small sixty-five person business because I wanted to help make it a great place to work. A background in organizational development and a successful six-month development process that engaged 85% of our front-line staff finished and I moved to the human resource function, the area that most needed attention. When I left the organization some eighteen years later, we had become part of a Fortune 500 company with operations in three countries and over 50,000 employees.

Over the years I gained experience in most aspects of human resources and worked with senior management who believed in the power of engagement and supported front-line staff. I’d say I had a pretty ideal work environment. Despite that, when I left I discovered I needed to dissolve or reframe a lot of ideas I had accumulated, and my view of myself.

I first looked at the internal and external drivers.

Internal Drivers

  • Personal Values
  • Personal Vision
  • Desire to Serve
  • Insight
  • Observations
  • Knowledge
  • Ethics

This is a list of my internal drivers. Yours may look a bit different. Now let’s look at the external drivers.

External Drivers

  • Company Leaders
  • Company Values
  • Company Vision
  • Company Policies
  • Boss
  • Legislation
  • Experts
  • Training
  • Front-line Opinion
  • Colleagues

As with the internal drivers, your external drivers may be a bit different.

From looking at the internal and external drivers you can see how, over time, it’s easy for your voice and vision to be overtaken by external voices and ideas.

So how do you get out from underneath and re-engage with the internal drivers that brought you to the work you love?

10 steps to reconnect with work you love

1. Identify and reconnect with your internal drivers.

Why do you do what you do? Pay particular attention to the values you want to embody in your work and to the vision you have for success in it. Is your desire to serve alive and well? If not, why not? What’s changed? How is your knowledge base? When did you last do some professional development that challenged you to be better? Is your conscience happy? Are any ethical concerns addressed promptly? Do you regularly observe the work of the people you serve? Do you know what’s great and what needs to be improved? Do you reflect on and gain insight from your day-to-day work life? Do you feel successful?

2. Assess your relationship with External Drivers.

Is what you do in tune with expert opinion or do you really feel it is irrelevant to your situation, and if so, why? Are you compliant with Employment Standards, Human Rights and WorkSafe legislation? Do you respond to the letter of the law or understand the intent? Are there many rules governing your work? If so, do you agree with them and believe they are needed? Are rules written or unwritten? What do you feel your professional colleagues expect? Where did you make assumptions? Are company policies clear, simple and direct? What assumptions have you made about front-line opinion? How frequently do you check it? Are the methods you use effective and accurate? How does your boss communicate expectations? Are they clear, written, communicated well? Does your boss embody Company values? Clarify as needed. How in sync are your efforts with Company Values? Do Company Leaders embody values that are important to you? Do they embody Company values? Does what you are doing build on your professional training or is it taking you in another direction?

Having a better understanding of your internal and external drivers lays a foundation for the next steps.

3. Review your strengths or discover them.

To what extent do you currently use your strengths at work? Estimate the amount of time you spend using your strengths. If you can hit the 20% mark you have a good chance of loving your job.

4. Look at how do you instinctively respond to situations.

Don’t know? Invest in the Kolbe A Index, an assessment that will give you insight into your motivations. Once you know your preferred method of operations, you can take steps to move toward doing more work that fits with your MO.

5. Log your highs and lows.

For two weeks log every high (activity where you felt very engaged) your lows (activity where you felt disengaged or bored). Once you’ve completed the log look for themes.

6. Have a dialogue with your professional role

You can dialogue either in a journal or by sitting first in one chair and then in another, speaking for yourself and then switching and speaking for your professional role. In each position ask what you like and dislike, what advice you have to give, what you would stop doing, and about what you would change. If you’ve done this verbally, make some notes after your dialogue to reflect on later. You can do this dialogue with a mentor or friend as well.

7. Write a profile of yourself.

Pick your favorite work related magazine and picture the article running three years from now. Which magazine did you chose? What are the accomplishments you highlight? Why did the magazine chose you for a profile?

8. What legacy you would leave if you left your job?

What would people thank you for and miss? What would you be most proud of? How would this position add to your career?

9. If, for some reason you couldn’t do this work, what would you do?

10. If, you attained enlightenment tonight, what would you do differently tomorrow?

Join the conversation: Do you sometimes feel disconnected from your work even though you love it? What do you do to reconnect? If you try any of these steps, let me know how they work for you!


After You’ve Achieved the Goal


Goals give you something to aim for; something to steer toward. What happens when you achieve a goal, but don’t have another to steer toward yet? Or maybe you have another goal, but it’s in a different area and you don’t want to lose the momentum that accomplishing your goal provided? What can you do to make best use of the time and energy unexpectedly at your disposal?

If you treat your plan for the year as the itinerary for a journey, recognize that the situation is a bit like finding yourself with free time on a trip. If traveling and already in an area, you want to take advantage of this; maybe explore something you didn’t think you’d get to see, or spend some time hanging out with the locals, shopping or relaxing with a more expansive meal than you’d usually have for lunch.

Does the analogy translate?

Let’s say you’ve completed a research project. Maybe there are some related areas that turned up while you were working on the project that you couldn’t explore. Now you can. Or you found several expert resources that are accessible in person or by phone. Now you can see if you can do some short interviews. Maybe you found an area where there was much recent work but didn’t have time to review it as it wasn’t immediately pertinent. Go back and take another look at material that seemed especially rich that you didn’t have time to dive into deeply. Now you can immerse yourself.

The space between goals is great time to do some day dreaming too. Blue sky,” what if”, thinking thrives in the breaks between focused efforts.

Often your goal will be one step on the journey to a larger goal. Now you have some time to visualize the end point with the information you’ve gained from accomplishing your interim goal. Does it change anything? Suggest any course corrections or new avenues of exploration? Did it point to some things to stop or discontinue? Use this time to reflect on the meaning and implication of achieving your goal.

Reap the rewards

What did you learn? Can these lessons be used as you go forward? What did you learn about how you work? What did you most enjoy? Dislike? Were you able to use your strengths effectively? What could you do to leverage your strengths as you move forward? Did you have everything you needed? Are there any resources you need to ask for before you proceed? Who deserves appreciation and thanks for their contributions and support? Who do you want to stay in touch with or work more closely with? What pleased you about this work? Where were you dissatisfied? Is there anything else you need to do to complete this phase?

Building in some time to stop and reflect when you reach your goals will help you gain more from achieving them. All too often we tick them off the list without reflection, debriefing or celebration. Do all three to get the most from your achievements.

Join the conversation: What happens for you in the space between goals? How do you use this space? How do you explore what you learned from achievement?


Celebrating Help


I ask people who come to programs, how did you get here? I know I’ve arrived at this point because of all the encouragement and support that’s come my way. I’ve done the work, yet it has been the encouragement and support that’s allowed me to sustain the work. I am grateful for all the family, teachers, friends, other writers and bloggers, and artists in my life. This is a celebration of their work and an appreciation of what they offer.

It is a short list, focused on the website, so it leaves out more people and resources than it includes, but when you have lots to acknowledge you have to start somewhere!

Family and friends have shown their support and belief in me in so many ways over many years. You may not remember the countless times that you affirmed my dream or asked how the writing was going, or introduced me to the work of someone you love, but I thank you for each question, each acknowledgement, each connection, each time you recognized the “quiet light” in my heart.

Atum O’Kane: I took Atum’s two-year Art of Spiritual Guidance course at Hollyhock on Cortes Island from 2007-2009. It came at the perfect time for me, just as I was getting ready to make the transition from being a Regional HR Manager at Capers to some unknown other work. The practice and work in the course helped me move toward my soul work. I went on to study The Alchemy of Transformation from 2009 to 2011 and am now taking Archetypal Dimensions of Spiritual Guidance which began last year and will finish in 2013. I am profoundly grateful for the way work with Atum continues to nourish me spiritually and creatively.


John O’Donohue: The first book I read of John’s was To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. I go back to the book over and over again to use the blessings, and to study the essays about blessing. His work continues to lead me deeper into the mystery, and has been a blessing in my life.


Julia Cameron: When I finally started actually doing Morning Pages (see The Artist’s Way) it changed my creative life. I had kept a journal off and on for decades; the switch to faithfully writing three pages every morning helped me to turn on a tap that had been rusted almost closed.


Danielle LaPorte: Danielle’s writing and videos ignited a spark of urgency and booted me toward greater transparency. I ordered the digital program Your Big Beautiful Book Plan that she co-created with Linda Sivertsen and her Firestarter Sessions and found them both full of inspiration and help. I love the way she writes and talks; lots of great information, lots of soul, lots of straight talk, and a fabulous smile.


Roger Housden: Roger brought me back to poetry. Because of Roger I went to John Fox’s workshop last year. Because of the gift of Dancing With Joy, Roger’s anthology of 99 poems, I read poets I hadn’t read before like Billy Collins, William Stafford, Stanley Kunitz, and Jane Hirshfield and began to investigate more poets. It inspired me to reread poets I love like Mary Oliver, Wendell Barry, Pablo Neruda, Rumi, Hafiz, Denise Levertov, E.E. Cummings, Emily Dickinson, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. His essays on poems in the Ten Poems series of books helped me read poems in a new way. Poetry is incredibly nourishing.


Robin McKinley: The first book I read was Beauty; from there I went to The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, and on to all the others. I reread Blue Sword and Hero regularly. I am not alone. Her blog is well followed and there’s lots of conversation on her forum. I want to celebrate her characters and heroic fantasy and her way of being herself on her blog, Days in the Life. Reading the blog nearly every day (remarkably she posts every day) she gives me a closer to reality vision of the writing life and this has been incredibly encouraging.


Jennifer Parker: I found Jenny by falling in love with a font, tracking the font to the designer, Stephen W. Rapp, and then finding the Jennifer Parker Designs website as an example of one of his fonts in use. I kept going back to her website, drawn by her designs and her art (look at the personal altars), and finally contacted her about designs for this website. She was wonderful to work with and I am delighted with the results (my logo, and logo art for dream, discover, explore, create, and celebrate). There’s something wonderful about the way long distance collaboration works and about the power of visual images.


Robert Ouimet: Helpful, easy to work with, knowledgeable, intuitive, and a good teacher, Robert has made the process of getting my first site up and this redesign done workable and creative. I love the feeling that Robert’s got my back; that there is a real person to hold my virtual hand, if needed.


Union Photographers: Holly took photos of me and made it fun. Her laugh is so good, you want to do what you can to have it happen again; fortunately this isn’t hard and you get great candid photos.


Join the conversation: These are some of the folks who helped me get here. Who do you want to celebrate for helping you?


Art Journals 4

Journaling with Words and Images

This is the fourth and final interview in a series of interviews with Joan Gregory about Art Journaling. It’s been some time since the last post; thanks for hanging in there!

Once you have a sense of the way you can explore your experience with journal work, are there ways you can shape the process to take yourself in a specific direction?

Yes, there are ways to shape the process. For example, in 2005 I wanted to be in a place of gratitude. Looking back at my journal I could see that there was still a fair bit of whining going on, and I decided to only write about the things I was thankful for. It does have value to do that; it reframes how you look at your day. It’s not that you deny that the bad stuff is happening; it’s just that you are not choosing to write about it in that journal.

One thing to do, whether you are journaling on a scrap of paper or in several books, recording dreams, poetry, or other writing, is always date your entry. A really interesting thing to do is cross-reference the entries after a bit of time has passed. It’s lets you see how all the different pieces are fitting together.

Thinking about dating, makes me think it would be interesting to do that with quotes as well. I’ve collected quotes, but I haven’t noted when I found them. Time can become so fluid; something that happened twenty years ago can feel like it only happened five years ago.

Some things like web pages or magazine articles have dates on them, but for anything else that you collect, that doesn’t have a date, yes date that too. I even like to write the date I’ve gotten a book in the book.  As well, when I buy books, I’ll note the titles in my journal, another way to document what interests me at a particular stage of my life.  Then later, as you go back through your journal(s) you can see, “oh, this is what I like, this is what resonates with me, what has meaning”. These are just more l clues along your path to determine who your true self may be.

Are there books or articles about journaling that you feel have been helpful?

One of the articles I’ve kept is called, “Leaving a Trace”; an excerpt from a book by Alexandra Johnson called Leaving a trace: On Keeping A Journal. It’s examines the answer to the question, “why am I keeping a journal?” This is an interesting question to ask yourself, and to explore in your journal. It will likely lead to other areas to delve into. Is it to leave something for my children and grandchildren? Is a place for me to reflect on my life and experience? Is it just for the pleasure of creating something personal?

There are so many resources on journaling available in different formats. There are ‘how to ’books, memoirs and diaries of well-known writers, articles in various magazines and on the internet. It is really difficult to limit it to a few. However, in addition to those I have already mentioned in previous segments of this interview, I have found these to be inspiring.

Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Practice by Christina Baldwin

Writing For Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner Worlds by Deena Metzger

Creative Journal Writing: the Art and Heart of Reflection by Stephanie Dowrick

I have already referenced Ira Progoff’s Intensive Journal Workshop.  The next best thing to attending a workshop would be to read the book, At a Journal Workshop: Writing to Access the Power of the Unconscious and Evoke Creative Ability. I have attended one of the courses and highly recommend the experience, especially if you seek guidance from, and connection to, your inner life. It definitely deepens and broadens your journal work. A favourite answer to the question, “Why do you journal” comes from this book: “To interact with your life”.

There is an upcoming Journal Workshop in Edmonton in late July/early August. You can go to their website to read more about the process and to get further details on workshops in your area.

I think we’ve all gone through periods where things can seem flat; where nothing seems to be catching your attention; times when you feel like there is nothing to write or say; times when It all seems dry. What can you do when you come to your journal and there is nothing to put on the page?

Whether you are a poet, a writer or an artist, you have to first be an observer, a wonderer, and a collector; not so much a collector of things as a collector of impressions. Begin to bring a child-like curiosity to the way you explore. If you can meet your journal page everyday with that openness, with not knowing, as if you had never seen a day before, as if you had just arrived, you will bring presence and freshness to the page.

To take it another direction, resurrect the lost art of pretending that we experienced as children. Allow yourself to become a fictional or historical character moving through your day. What would you see if you were say, Alice in Wonderland, or Anais Nin? Use your imagination to view your world from a different perspective and write about it.

You could also imagine yourself twenty years from now. As you look back from the future, who do you see sitting there writing? What is her world like, what are her hopes and fears? This is another way of recognizing who you are in the world.

 Do you find that the Art Journal process opens the journal process up?


Yes, it engages more of your senses and provides a way to use all the ephemera of your life. Throughout the day you encounter news stories, tickets, stamps, ads, magazine pictures and more, and if you are open to these they can find their way into your journal to document your day. So you end up seeing more, and finding more beauty in every day. Each day you encounter endless possibility for story. From the simplest thing, like seeing a fallen leaf on the ground in the fall, to seeing an older woman walking up the street using a walker, we are bombarded by story potential. If you are open to receiving, there’s no limit to what you can write about. If you feel a bit overwhelmed, pick the top three things that stood out for you that day, choose one and reflect on it.

Why did that capture my interest today?

What’s going on that I would recognize this one thing as significant?

You can use these questions as a starting point.

Have you ever used your journal to help you make a decision? I’ve sometimes done that by fully imagining where different decisions lead.

I could have used that thirty years ago! Yes, you can use your imagination to gain access to guidance. Ira Progoff uses what he termed ‘twilight imagery’ (similar to Jungian active imagination) in the journal process as a vehicle to access a ‘deeper-than-conscious’ level of ourselves when at a crossroad where a decision has to be made. The technique is used to explore the possibilities of both the ‘roads taken and of the roads not taken’; to provide a self-generated inner knowing and affirmation, as well as the resolution and energy to carry that decision out.

What gifts has the process of writing, rereading, and reflecting in your journal brought you?

The surprises are, as you reread, the realization that you already knew something that you feel you are just now learning, or discovering something that you know you wrote that somehow makes you think you found it a book, it’s that profound. The biggest gift is learning about who you are and acknowledging how much wisdom you actually have. We all have these gems of knowledge buried within. The journal mirrors you to yourself enabling you to see aspects of yourself that you weren’t aware of, or that you didn’t give yourself credit for. You begin to trust yourself more.

Some mornings I’ll take time to go back over the same date in the previous four or five journals to see what I wrote there. Often I will find very similar passages to those I am currently writing and think that I haven’t moved an inch in terms of personal growth, but this repetition is common in journaling. Published journals have similar entries edited out, but there is merit in what at first appears superfluous.

I love what Joseph Campbell, best known for his work in the field of comparative mythology, has to say on the topic. “I brought out my book, Myths to Live By, by collecting together a series of lectures that I had given over a period of twenty-four years. My notion about myself was that I had grown up during that time, that my ideas had changed, and, too, that I had progressed. But when I brought these papers together, they were all saying essentially the same thing – over a span of decades. I found out something about the thing that was moving me. I didn’t even have a very clear idea of what it was until I recognized those continuities running through that whole book. Twenty-four years is a pretty good stretch of time; a lot had happened during that period. And there I was babbling on about the same thing. That’s my myth in there.”

He continues by saying, “Another astonishing way to look back is to pick up some diary entries or notes that you kept a long time ago. You’ll be astonished. Things that you were convinced you had realized more recently will be all pinned down there. These are driving themes in your life”.

And in support of journal writing he adds, “But what if you want to gain some idea of what your myth is while you are living it? Well, another way to try to discern your destiny – your myth – would be to follow Jung’s example: observe your dreams, observe your conscious choices, keep a journal, and see which images and stories surface and resurface. Look at stories and symbols and see which ones resonate.” (The above quotes are taken from page 112 of Pathways to Bliss, Mythology and Personal Transformation by Joseph Campbell, Collected Works Series)

Is there a difference between the Joan on the page and Joan the person?

When I communicate with other people I generally filter what I say to accommodate how I feel the other person will receive it. I think most of us do some form of this. In my journal I am as authentic as I can be. It is a place to be real and true to oneself. If you aren’t going to be honest you won’t receive the mirror’s gift back, or what you do receive will be distorted. You might go back and  come to sections that have not been written in your voice, and then begin to explore whose voice it is.

Journal work is a way of removing the layers that have accumulated and gradually exposing one’s true self. It can be a way of getting off the same old track, going deeper than those circular ways of thinking that lead us back to the same spot without more insight. You have to stop and be reflective.

Journal writing takes you along that boundary between the inside and the outside of your life; a very creative place. It allows you to play and to develop some gentleness with yourself. Art journaling also offers some softness to the process and the materials provide another dimension.

Where can someone go to learn about art journal making and to meet others who share art journal interests?

I have mixed feelings about that, based on my own experience. When I started journaling it was all self-discovery; I am self-taught. So, I don’t think you need to go out and buy a book on it, and I didn’t do that until I was some years into it, and wanted to branch out a bit. As with journaling, resources for art journaling are abundant, dare I say, excessive. Only if you truly believe you don’t have a creative bone in your body would I recommend a book. It’s great to start on your own because you will get a sense of your own style.

The book I would recommend is The Decorated Page by Gwen Diehn because it is so full of doable ideas. It’s a great book to use by following her instructions to a T, or to simply take one or two techniques to try. This book is now only available used, but a newer book, also by her, is The Decorated Journal: Creating Beautifully Expressive Journal Pages is available in paperback and hard cover.

Stampington & Company offers many publications for artists and crafters. Art Journaling is one publication that will interest journal makers.

Another one of their publications, Somerset Press – The Art of Paper and Mixed Media, also contains articles and tips for journaling. Also, if you’re looking to pursue art journaling in a group setting, Teesha Moore, founder of the annual Artfest held in Port Townsend Washington, created Journalfest last October. Her website has information about events.

Creative souls run amok on the Internet, offering blogs, how–to videos, forums and classes. While these magazines and websites are full of wonderful work that can be inspiring in moderation, I would exercise caution. There is such a thing as too much, and that can bring on sensory overload! Instead of fanning the embers of a newfound creative spark they will more likely douse it!  Volumes of ideas can prove overwhelming and intimidating. It can be easy to talk yourself out of starting when you compare yourself to artists who have already been working for years. You too may know the voice that pops up and says, “I’ll never be able to do anything like that.”

What actually happens is the more you do the better you get. The more you do, the more playful you become and the less seriously you’ll take any one piece of work. You discover happy accidents and a sense of fun. Getting yourself going and doing is the main thing. The work shows the way. As you are writing and collecting and cutting and pasting and fooling around with lettering, something else enters your mind, you make a connection, “oh, I could put that with that”, that you wouldn’t have made just by thinking about it. That way you develop from your work and you gain confidence in your own abilities and intuitions without reference to someone else. Referring to someone else’s work is like having training wheels on a bike; you have to take them off in order to know you can ride.

You can’t compare your first work with those who have been art journaling for awhile already. Remember that you are making comparisons to their published work. They went through the learning curve just as you may be doing now, only you don’t see their first attempts, just the end result. You have to be willing to be a beginner.

As this is our final session do you have any parting words?

One of the most intriguing visual depictions of a journal is in the film, The English Patient, based on the novel by Michael Ondaatje.  It is used as a thread tying together much of the story.  The journal is actually a copy of Histories by Herodotus, regarded as the father of history and credited as the first to see many different stories as part of a single whole story. Almasy, the lead character and owner of the book is never without it. His journal entries are written in the margins and empty pages and it is layered with sketches, maps and photographs he has pasted into it. He calls it his ‘commonplace’ book but values it as a prize possession and his ‘historie’ is his companion throughout his life. That pretty much sums up the essence of a great journal.

Joan has provided some PDFs of art journal pages to get you started. She also makes wonderful greeting cards. You can contact her at Izzy Elly Paper Design, Box 8616, Canmore, AB  T1W 2V5, Canada, for information about her cards and her work. Her blog is, “Finding the Questions”