I believe there are two distinct types of people – those who love to journal and those who hate it. Rarely do I find anyone is in the middle. And I am one who has always been the journaler. Which means that by my age, I have an entire moving box full of them. Spiral bound, leather bound, some with peace symbols (they were big during the ‘70s), sketch pads, and steno pads. You name it, I’ve used it as a journal. Or “diaries” as we used to call them.
In Wellspring we recommend participants have a journal, to help in reflecting on big spiritual questions, and capturing experiences of dissatisfaction and illumination. For some it becomes their spiritual practice. Many people use their regular journal; others have a special one.
Last year my UU Wellspring group had a few moments of silliness when many of us admitted to having a lifelong stash of old diaries. We talked about how horrified we would be if (ahem, when) we die, and some family member starts going through them. Several of us vowed to go right home and burn them.
Despite my good intentions, I didn’t do this. There was such a big box of them – where would I build a big enough fire? And even though I hadn’t opened the ancient ones in literally decades, they felt like part of me.
Well, nothing like a cold, rainy, November day to dive in. I spent an afternoon glancing through them, reading some of the old letters and pictures that fell out, and being reminded of the circuitous nature of life (not to mention how hard change is, given the themes that kept repeating throughout.) I set a few things aside that felt priceless.
But it was time. I saved one page from each journal. Then I tore them apart, tossing away the metal spiral and faux leather. Putting all the pages in the recycle bin, which was full by the end. I shed a few tears, had a few chuckles, and by the end, felt the delicious lightness of letting go. I had honored the past with compassion, and then given it back to the earth. The joys, the pains, the secrets, the mementos.
Maybe this is what happens to many of us during our Wellspring journey. With kindness, and with the presence of our small group, we examine our history and our roots. We keep parts that are precious. We lovingly say goodbye to what we have outgrown. We feel the truth of impermanence.
Such is the gift of UU Wellspring.