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Journaling to Access Inner Wisdom

by Nadine Kenney Johnstone

Journaling to Access Inner Wisdom, ashlyn ciara/Unsplash.com
ashlyn ciara/Unsplash.com

On a summer afternoon in 2015, I sat in my favorite coffee shop waiting on life-changing news. With each minute, my anxiety mounted, so I turned to the only thing that calms me in a stressful situation—my journal. As my pen scrawled across the page, I instinctively wrote a letter from my future self to my present self. I just needed someone to reassure me. And that “someone,” apparently, was me. 

I’ve been writing these inner-wisdom letters ever since, and it has been one of the most helpful practices in managing my anxiety. Women that have attended my retreats say it is the most impactful thing we do. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, grab a pen and follow these simple steps.

Create a simple ceremony. Sitting down with your favorite mug or journal makes this exercise feel sacred. Write in the light of dawn or by the glow of a candle, whatever brings you joy.

Set a timer so you don’t overthink it. Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity. For 10 minutes, tell yourself to just write whatever comes, no matter how imperfect.

Get into the brain of the older, wiser you. Imagine the version of you six months from now that has gotten through the muck you’re currently in. What deep wisdom and advice does it carry?

Start with a loving greeting. Address your present self compassionately, the way you would to a child or dear friend. “Hi darling. It’s a brand-new day, sweetheart.”

Acknowledge your hardships without judgement. What is your wiser self observing from the outside? Let it state what it notices. “I can see that you’re hurting. You’ve been through it, haven’t you?”

Let the past be proof of your emotional endurance. Be an investigator and dig up examples of how you’ve coped with previous hardships. Remember that time you thought you couldn’t deal, but you did? 

State what THE wiser-you knows. What does this perspective offer to the situation? Be the scribe as you channel wiser-you’s messages. Try this prompt: “Your heart knows that ...”

Request the next right step. Ask your wiser self, “What do I need in order to heal from this?” Listen for the answer. It might take the form of advice, a mantra or a simple step: Rest. Pause. Stay. Hug.

List what you can let go of. Dump your obsessive thoughts onto the page, as well as anything you can’t control. While you think you can control other people’s reactions, you can’t.

Close with love and support. “I love you and I’m here for you in your heart.”

Read what you wrote. Be amazed by the wisdom that came simply because you tapped in and asked. Bring your hands to your heart and say thank you.

Nadine Kenney Johnstone is the host of the podcast Heart of the Story, a writing, meditation and yoga nidra instructor, and a workshop and retreat leader. 

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