Friday, June 26, 2009

Intensive Journaling


I attended an Ira Progoff Intensive Journaling Workshop last weekend. It's billed as "writing to access the power of the unconscious and evoke creative ability." And I think that's an accurate billing.

The instructor spread it out over Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon, which is a great way to experience this method. I wasn't too tired!

We began Friday night by journaling about our present circumstances. Here's what that's about:

We being with the Now. But Now is not limited to the immediate instant. It's not just here and now, not just the spot on which we stand, nor this moment when we speak. Our Now moment is elastic. Therefore, we stretch the present moment back as ar as it needs to go in ortder to include as much of the past as is still an active part of the present.
I like that...the elasticity of the present moment. We began the journaling with: "Now that..."
So I included things like, Now that I'm married. Now that I have the Ph.D. Now that I have a family. Now that I'm doing work that is meaningful to me. Now that I'm having such problems with my body slowing down. Now that I have dual standing in two denominations. Now that I've "discovered" the work of John O'Donohue. Now that I appreciate beauty. Now that I have a car I enjoy driving and 600 thread-count sheets on the bed. etc. etc. (Yes, we were suppose to include material things as well as people, circumstances, events, emotional states.)

After that we approached the Present from a different vantage point, "shifting our psychic position to a depth viewpoint" by means of what Progoff called TWILIGHT IMAGERY. I love that word, twilight.

We moved into stillness, quiet, and let ourselves "drift into the twilight level" of consciousness. Our instructor described this in such a way that I got the idea of "auto-pilot." I used to drive the 45 minutes from my therapy group to home on "auto-pilot," a state in which the car seemed to drive itself as I intently processed what had happened in the group. One minute I was just turning out of the parking lot, and the next minute I was home. Not sure if this is the best way to access "twilight imagery," but it seemed to work for me. The book says that twilight level of consciousness is one in which we "let ourselves feel the tone and quality of the Now period we've just described." We simply allow any and all images to come to us, we intuit them, we feel them in our body. And we record those images as they come.

A lot of my imagery concerned me and my husband, but random things also came to me...friends who are battling cancer...driving, driving, driving...My need to be well-thought of...How good it was that The Author came with me to this workshop...How the instructor reminded me of my grandfather...How my life moves, and Oh, what if it stops? (strange)...Fear of failure at teaching this seminary class in the Fall...Waves came to me and I remembered that time sitting on the rock pier on the Atlantic Ocean beach...

Next came a Life Correlation, putting the conscious "Now that..." listing of my present life into conversation with the twilight images.

On Saturday we did a Daily Log where we listed everything that had happened within the last 24 hours. Amazing how much I could put down! The purpose of the Daily Log, as well as the Steppingstones which come next, is to provide material for the Journal Feedback work. That's where some powerful insights can come.

Next we were asked to write 12 Steppingstones which are "significant points of movement" in our lives.

Steppingstones stand forth as indicators of the inner connectedness of each person's existence...They enable us to draw out of the jumbled mass of our life experiences the thin and elusive connective threads that carry our potentialities through their phases of development toward a fuller unfolding.

Steppingstones are not intended to give us an intellectual understanding of our past. That's why there's no such thing as a correct listing of steppingstones. They are inherently in flux. The key to working with them is to let the list be created spontaneously out of the fullness of the present circumstances of life.

The thin and elusive connective threads. This was interesting. We were to begin with "I was born." and go from there. As I later reflected on my 12 Steppingstones, I divided them by thirds. Alongside the first grouping I wrote, "I survived this." Alongside the second group I wrote, "I un-learned these." And alongside the last group I wrote, "I am becoming me." Someday soon I'd like to do this part again and see if I come up with some different groupings.

Next we did some Dialogue/Feedback journaling. First, dialogue with persons, then with our works, and lastly with our body.

Dialogue with persons can be with someone current in your life, someone with whom we no longer have a relationship, or with someone who has died. The Steppingstones probably contain some powerful clues about which person to choose for the dialogue. We describe the relationship, as in where it is now, noting especially any emotions evoked.
"Our goal is to establish a deep dialogue so that we can open out the full possibilities and implications of our relationship. To do that, we cannot let ourselves fall back into the old patterns of communication--or non-communication--that have previously characterized the relationship. We want to reach a level that we've not reached before...We want to get beyond the outer mask to the inner person so that we can speak from an authentic depth in ourselves to the deep core of being in the other....We do this by placing ourselves inside the actuality of the person, as though we were participating in it from within."
To get to the inner person, we listed this other person's Steppingstones. That was the most powerful part of the whole workshop for me. The person I chose lives in another state, and I realized that I had allowed the relationship to grow more and more distant. More importantly, I realized I didn't know the other person's significant moments, and from that realization lots of things, which are unbloggable, began to happen for me.

We wrote dialogues with our Works, which are things we've done that involved moving from an inner vision to an outward fulfillment. Then it was a dialogue with our Body, and this, too, was immensely helpful to me. In this journaling method, the body is the

"primary instrument of connection between life and the world. We want to re-establish our access to the natural wisdom of the body. The body knows how to regulate itself. Our life history of inner existence and our life history of the body are mirrors to each other."
We began by listing Memory Experiences with the Body. He gave us a long time to simply sit there and list EVERYTHING we could remember about our relationships with our bodies. Amazing. I had 64 things listed and two-thirds of them were very very positive. Surprise!! It brought up all the fun memories of playing as a child, how I won a bicycle contest in 5th grade (hadn't thought of that in ages!), climbing the tree in our yard in San Antonio, how I loved playing ping-pong and tennis, the much needed hug from my Uncle Weldon at my grandfather's funeral...

Outside the workshop, the method includes dialogue with Society, with Events/Situations--the idea being to increase our level of awareness of (a) patterns in our lives and (b) possible pointers toward meaning and direction.

There's also a section in this journaling method on Meaning Dimension which we did not have time for in the first of two workshops. It includes dream logs, and meditation logs.

The method is, as its name says, INTENSE. And, just in the sheer breadth of what's covered, it's also rather complicated. I know I don't have time to tend to it every day, but the instructor kept saying that once you get the hang of it, it's extremely useful for when we are
  1. feeling stuck, or
  2. at a crossroads and need to make a decision, or
  3. upset about something.
And I can see myself turning to it for exactly those kinds of things. It's amazing.

1 comment:

Jan said...

I've always wanted to take an Ira Progoff Intensive Journaling Workshop, but have never known anyone who had and so wondered. . . .Now someone I trust as much as you writes so beautifully about it that I believe this has to be the next major thing I do. . . .eventually.