“You’ve either got a spiritual practice, or you’ve got beer and t.v.” Krishna Das
Memories, Dreams and Reflections (MDR) is the name of the book written by Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist, in collaboration with Aniel Jaffee. The book is a biography of Jung’s long, illustrious life that includes tales told and written by Jung himself about his exploration of the human psyche.
I became interested in Jung and his unorthodox view of psychology and the mind when I had just begun working with my father in our textile business. His work became a beacon for me of how to live life with more purpose and meaning. When I began journaling in the mid-1970’s I began calling my books of scribbles by the title of the book, because this was a place to capture and explore my own memories, dreams and reflections.
On a business trip to England I met with a customer who gave me a little gift of a cover for a stenographer’s pad. It was black with a brass clasp. I thought the covering was leather, but alas, it was vinyl covered cloth that now looks like this, worn and graying, kind of like its user.
The great thing about this cover is that it holds a steno pad and since I write left handed I didn’t have to deal with the wire bound books designed for right handers. I’ve used this book now for 35 years, cataloguing encounters, experiences, feelings and insights into over 85 notebooks today.
I remember sitting by myself in a cafe or coffee shop way back then and seeing a guy across from me writing in a notebook. I projected that he was writing important stuff about life, deep thought and innovative approaches to living. In conjunction with what I’d just read in MDR I said, “I can do that!” Right away I got some steno pads and pen and began writing, feeling righteous and like I was doing something important.
Journaling has become for me a matter of spiritual practice. I don’t do it every day, but if I have a dream I feel is significant, I record it. If something is going on in my life that puzzles or vexes me (everyday it’s something!), into the journal it goes. I began a catalogue system that works for me because I quickly lost track of when something was written and how to access it again if I ever wanted to look back on it. For instance, this current book is numbered #86-11 (journal number and year) along with the start and end dates. Each book now takes me about 3-4 months to fill. I can now go back to a time when something similar might have been going on in my life and reread how I worked through it. This can give me hope that I’ll work through this issue as well, and I try not be bummed out by the difficult feelings and emotions I expressed way back then.
Another important part of journaling, at least for me, is the writing instrument I use. At first, I used any Bic or junk pen lying around but the quality of the penmanship was mediocre and inconsistent. Finally, nearly 24 years ago, I inherited the Sheaffer ink pen pictured here. It has just the right heft, balance and nib quality. It has become a consistent friend and tool. I found, however, that if I carry it on a plane, the pressure forces ink out of the cartridge and into the pocket of my dress shirt! I make accommodation for that now by either removing the cartridge or making sure it’s not too full before I board.
Journaling has been a great teacher for me. It causes me to create a little bit of discipline in my life. It brings me back to what’s important for me and to me. Above all, it has given me a touchstone to go back to when things have gotten tough. If I handled things then, I can do it now, and I’ve got a great resource to help me recall how I did it. It’s amazing how well I can recall where I was living, who I was surrounded by and what I was doing and thinking for nearly 4 decades now.
Finally, one thing that has thrown many people off journaling is the thought that someone is going to sneak a peek, or worse read whole sections about themselves. I struggled with this for a while until I came to the firm conviction that what they read about themselves in my books is their business. There have been many opportunities for people to read my journals, but if they have done so, I’ve never been confronted with it. If I ever do, then that’s their issue, not mine!