Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It has been several years since I started sending out my devotional journal to you. I hope you will find it helpful. This journal is only a sample of meditation tool that I have been using personally for my spiritual growth in Christ. In no way I consider this as the way of devotional exercise. Nevertheless, journal is an aid in the practice of silence. Otherwise your “walk with God” becomes superficial and ritualistic. My purpose of sending you my journal is in hope that you will follow my footstep. It is like what Paul said to the Corinthians, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). This is an act of discipleship.
There are some ways of coming to silence and starting on the inner journey besides the ones we have been considering in previous chapters. While certain of them may seem too far out for some people to try, these are suggestions that may prove helpful to one individual or another, and at least one of them is probably vital for almost everyone who seeks the inner silence. This is the use of a journal which prepares a person to slow down and helps to direct the inner processes of thought, feeling, sensation, and intuition. In a different way controlled breathing may be almost as important for many people because it reinforces and deepens the stillness in one’s own body.
For some people a small group of like-minded individuals, a prayer group. Opens the way into silence and beyond. For others relation with a spiritual director, which resembles the prayer group in many ways, is a necessity. Often the dream gives people a re-entry to the stillness from which it came. Meditative reading and the use of images are further aids in entering silence and drawing out the meaning that arises. These particular practices require special discussion, and in this chapter we shall consider mainly those that are aids just for getting into the silence. Let us start with the journal which is important both at the beginning and later on.
It is difficult for many people to quiet their minds. As soon as they beg center down, ideas start to come up that jar them out of the silence. Perhaps one has been thinking about some problem, and in the quiet right away a new solution pops into mind. Or there is suddenly a picture of some vitally needed new project. One part of the mind tries to hold onto the problem or the good idea and get it worked through. For such people it is helpful to have a notebook at hand. If one quietly records the thought—and it may be a very valuable one— one can let it go and return to stillness. If the thought keeps on returning, one can then push it aside and say to it: You are taken care of. Stop bothering me.
Sometimes if one has been involved in a trying emotional situation, he or she may be so flooded with ideas and experiences that it seems futile to even think about settling down. One seems to be caught in a squirrel cage, running as hard as possible and getting nowhere. At times like this almost anyone will find real help in writing the feelings and thoughts down in a journal or notebook…Simply the fact of setting down these thoughts, fear other emotions gives them body and makes them distinct. The more concrete they become the easier it is to separate them from one’s soul. The most difficult reality to deal with is the kind that appears like a grey amorphous cloud. One cannot understand it or get a picture of it. There is no way to get a handle on it…Pushing these things out of the way only makes the worse. We can usually deal with the reality if we will look at it and bring it the silence.
There is a great difference between avoiding a thought or emotion and laying it aside after taking the trouble to look at it. In the first instance a person is pretending that there is nothing there, and so repressing these things and later on they can rise up from the depth and harass one. The other is simply a way of marking out one’s inner place of stillness and putting these calls on hold, asking them to wait until one is better prepared to take care of them.
I agree with Kelsey’s experience that it is difficult to come to silence until I have paid these aspects of myself their due. With a journal and pencil ready, I start by looking at the circumstances that have been bothering me. As I write down what- ever comes to mind about them, often bubbling up helter-skelter, they begin to lose their power over me. The concerns are no less important. They will be there when I get back to regular activity, but I know by experience that I will have a fresh outlook about them because of touching a level beyond my ordinary ego life. Keeping a record that gives a before and after look is a tremendous help to me in slowing down and ceasing activity. Moreover, the journal can be used as my dialogue with God when I submit all these concerns of mine to Him.
Sometimes, the emotions and thoughts that flood my mind in silence could be issues that I need to deal with in the light of God’s words. They could be “things” that God surfaced for me to encounter. Instead of resolving them by my own wisdom and experiences, I surrender them to Christ and admit my inadequacy in handling them. I resume back to a quiet mode of listening to what God has to say to me. Journal writing definitely serves the purpose of focusing on God in meditation and prayer. Finding words to write my prayer to God helps clarify my understanding of the situation that I am facing in life. And to my surprise, I found insight coming through silence while I was writing my prayer or love letter to God. I sincerely encourage you to try out this path of communion with God in silence.
Love you because of His passion for you,