Note: The content of this article applies to spiritual journaling across all religious/non-religious spiritual beliefs. It doesn’t matter whether you use the Bible, Kuran, Gita, Upanishads, any other scripture, a multitude of spiritual beliefs, or your own inner compass. I’m also using the terms religious/spiritual interchangeably here.
Just over a week ago, my nan passed away, in India. The last time I saw her was almost a year ago when I spent four months in India – the longest time in about fifteen years. While I was there, my grandmother had a heart-attack and died within hours. This year, with my nan gone, I now have no grandmothers left, which is still something I’m coming to terms with.
Grieving works differently based on geographical distant. When my grandmother died, I was right there, at her side, then I was supporting my grandfather, constantly surrounded by people who were coming to pay their respects, funeral and all the ceremonies that accompany it….it was a non-stop whirlwind for more than a month. It was impossible not to feel the constant presence of death and loss. With my nan, I am thousands of mile away in England, and currently unable to go to India. The loss is no less, but I’m not constantly surrounded by it. I’m still absorbed in my own life, going through my daily routine and things that need to happen. The grieving is haphazard at best.
A few hours after I got the news of her death, I decided to start a project I’d wanted to do since my last trip to India. It wasn’t urgent, and I’ve tons of things going on, so I’d put it aside. But with my nan gone, it seemed like the time. Not just the time, but I had to start then, on that very day. It felt important that I do that, and so I did.
I started my spiritual journal. I’ve included spiritual and religious entries in my journals before, but the reason this is different, is because this is a deliberate project that I aim to complete (more about that in a moment).
So, how do you go about keeping a spiritual journal?
Pick a notebook.
I am not keeping a separate journal. I thought about it, but as I have written before here, journaling for me is a part of life. It captures all areas of my life. If I were to keep a separate spiritual journal, it would remove this aspect from my regular life, which would not be a true reflection. I want this spiritual exploration to be a part of my daily life, and be represented as such in my journal. So for me, my spiritual journal is my regular journal, which at the moment is this gorgeous diary that my sister gave it to me for Christmas. You can decide what works for you. Either use your current journal, or pick a new notebook, just ensure that it’s a good quality product.
What is your WHY?
Why do you want to keep this journal? Don’t worry if you don’t know the exact answer. Your reason does not have to be as concrete as mine is. But give it some thought. If you don’t have an immediate reason, journal about it. Do a quick free-writing exercise on why you want to keep a spiritual journal. It could be simply to explore your spiritual beliefs, to understand them. But if you have a specific purpose for doing this, then it would help to start with that in mind.For this particular project, my aim is to explore each verse of the Bhagavad Gita. My nan was a particular devotee of Lord Krishna, who is the God featured in the Bhagavad Gita. It seemed appropriate, in her memory, to start this project. I could think of no better tribute. So my aim is write down each verse of the Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit (the original language it is written in), decipher the meanings of the Sanskirt words I don’t know by looking them up and writing them down in Gujarati, write the English translation of each verse, and finally, write my own thoughts/analysis/questions about each verse. It’s a trilingual project that is both a spiritual and intellectual exercise. This image below is what I wrote for Chapter 1, Verse 10:
Think about why you want to keep a spiritual journal. It is always better to know why you want to do something, and what is driving you, so that you are likely to stick with it. If you are planning to follow through on a religious scripture, it requires time and commitment. The Bhagavad Gita has 700 verses split over 18 chapters. I have not set myself any deadlines, but I plan to do it consistently enough, even if it’s just an average of 7 verses per week.
This follows up from the above point. Like any form of journaling, spiritual journaling also requires consistency. You can’t reach the depth of your feelings, or your beliefs, or the level of self-awareness that shows you your true values without being consistent. If you genuinely want to reap benefits from a spiritual journal – regardless of whether you are keeping it to understand and explore, or to find peace – be consistent. If you have trouble with that, read this post.
If you want to keep a spiritual journal – and as you are reading this, I assume that something about it appeals to you – start now. Don’t procrastinate just because you don’t know how to do it, or because you are not sure what you are going to write. Sometimes, time will just feel right to do something, as it did for me, but at other times, you just need to make it right. You just need to start, and have faith that you will find your way.
You are unlikely to begin the way you mean to end. And you don’t need to. Journaling, as a reflection of self-awareness and self-improvement, is a work-in-progress. It, like the search for self, is something that you can continue to do for the rest of your life. You don’t have to know everything about your spiritual beliefs, the scripture you want to follow, your own faith, or even about keeping a journal when you start. Start with whatever you know, and improve as you go. You will learn more along the way, you will learn from others, you will also gain a deeper spiritual understanding…use everything you learn, and keep incorporating that knowledge and understanding into your spiritual journal.
Finally, remember, like all journaling, spiritual journaling is about you. These are just guidelines, a starting point or an inspiration, but your journal can be anything you want, and include anything you want.
If you have kept a spiritual journal before, share your tips in the comments and help other readers.