An Excerpt From The Creative Journal For Parents
For that reason, parenting is one of the most arduous of spiritual practices. It shakes you loose from old ideas and habits, presents you constantly with challenges to your isolated egoself, who wants to control and predict and look good in the eyes of others. Parenting invites you to grow up (in the best sense of the term) while honoring the child-spirit in yourself and in your child. Parenting is the best school of psychology I know. It is a superb training ground for teaching, nursing, business (especially management and negotiations), and a host of other careers. Ask any working mom or full-time dad. Parenting is the advanced course in the school of life. Sign up with care. You're in for a wild ride.
Our children: What they are and what they aren't
One thing a parent learns early on is that children have a life of their own. As Kahlil Gibran cautions in his spiritual guide to life, The Prophet, our children are not our possessions. They come through us and we are here to help them, but we cannot direct their destiny. That is in the hands of a power greater than ourselves. Our children are with us for our safekeeping, guidance, and love. They are with us for a very short time.
Now that I am a grandmother, I see just how short a time it is. As a young mother buried under piles of diapers and baby bottles, waking up at all hours for nocturnal feedings, I didn't see how fleeting the time was. When I was carpooling kids to school halfway across Los Angeles on congested freeways while juggling career and single-parenting, I had no clue how quickly .the years would pass. Yet I did have a sense that these were precious times and that parenting was to be appreciated for the incomparable lessons and opportunities it presented. In that, I have never been disappointed. Tested, yes. Disappointed, no.
Children are incredible teachers. That is not to say that we are not our children's teachers, too. It just means that it's a two-way street. We learn from them as they learn from us. The very act of becoming a parent (by birth, adoption, marriage, or however we wind up with that role) challenges us to learn. Soon we find ourselves learning what parenting means to us. What we value. How we see ourselves. What our limits and boundaries are. What aspirations and dreams we hold. It all comes out in the open when we take on this formidable task of parenting another human being. I can guarantee that if you let it, parenting will provide you with opportunities for growth that you never dreamed possible.
In order to reap the deepest rewards available to you, it is important to embrace parenting with all your might. Reach out and hug it with both arms. Fall in love with your own unique style of being a parent and find your own true self. For on the road to becoming the parent you were meant to be, you will find the person you were meant to be as well.
How can I do this? you might be asking. How can I find my own way of being a parent? There are so many theories, methods, and opinions about raising children. Add to that all the differences in cultural child- rearing styles and you can end up in a morass of confusion. Obviously parenting is not for the faint of heart. Clearly it is a demanding job and a huge responsibility. How do I do it? What experts do I listen to? Whose advice should I seek? Where are my role models? These are all good questions.
The answers lie within
Within this book, you will explore all these questions and more. And where will the answers come from? Not from me and not from your mother or mother-in-law or Aunt Sadie. And not from the experts (many of whom disagree with each other on the "right way" to raise a child). No, the answers will come from you. From the "still, small voice within," the part of you that contains wisdom and guidance for being an authentic, creative parent to your child. You've heard this before, and you'll hear it again: the truth is within you. The world's great spiritual leaders have taught this. You can find it in any number of scriptures from all cultures and traditions. All you need to do is apply it to parenting.
Now this is no small task, finding the truth within. Yet there are ways to do it. And that is what this book is really about. In fact, it's what all my books are about. For I received the gift of Creative Journaling from my own Inner Self during that bleak time when a life-threatening illness was sapping my energy and will to live. My journal was a flashlight during my "dark night of the soul." It was the thing that saved my life. And now I pass it along to you.
What is creative journaling?
Creative journaling is a method of journal-keeping using both words and pictures (drawing, doodling, photo collage). In addition, it features writing and drawing with both the dominant hand (the one you normally write with) and the nondominant hand (the hand you do not usually write with). My twenty-five years of research have shown that writing and drawing with your nondominant hand allow more ready access to feelings, visual thinking, original insights, and inner wisdom. Why is this so?
It has long been known that the brain is divided into two hemispheres, with each half specializing in certain functions. Research in the last three decades has shown that the left hemisphere is adept at verbal and mathematical processes, sequential logic, and rational thought. We use it to make schedules, pay bills, follow verbal instructions, and so on. Our school systems rely heavily on left-brain learning and thinking.
The little-used right brain has not received much attention until recently. It contains centers that govern intuitive knowing, visual-spatial perception, emotional expressiveness, and break through thinking. These are all nonrational, nonverbal functions. Artists and inventors are adept at using the right brain, as were individuals with highly developed interpersonal skills. The right brain's gifts to us are visual imagery, kinesthetic and sensory awareness, emotional expressiveness, poetic thought, and metaphoric and holistic thinking (seeing the "big picture"). The "Aha!" moment when we discover a new solution or an invention is a right-brain phenomenon.
The right brain is readily accessed through the arts (which have always been the stepchild in school curriculum budgets), meditation, and using the nondominant hand for drawing and writing. It may simply be that the hand that was not taught to write is free to express from the nonverbal, nonlinear areas of the brain. According to leading scientists who have commented on my work, such as Roger Sperry (winner of a Nobel Prize for brain research) and Dr. Valerie Hunt (former researcher in kinesiology at UCLA), by writing and drawing with the nondominant hand, you are accessing the right hemisphere of the brain. Your nondominant hand may not be able to write very well, like its literate partner (your dominant hand), but it has ready access to those functions that make creativity and human communication possible at the deepest level.
The Creative Journal Method does not disregard the left, more verbal side of the brain. It just puts right-brain visual, emotional, and intuitive processing first and then follows up with more left-brain reflective writing. In this way, we access both sides of the brain and put them in communication with each other. I like to refer to this as "letting the left brain know what the right brain is doing." (The physical hemispheres associated with the different types of thinking actually vary with the individual, with exceptions to the more common "cross-wired" configuration in both right- and left-handed groups. If you'd like more information about my research and more in-depth activities for integrating the brain hemispheres, let me suggest my book The Power of Your Other Hand.)
Creative Journaling is for self-discovery through art and writing. You need no special talent or training in art or writing in order to express yourself in these forms. You are not being asked to make Art or to perform. I know of no better way to access the natural, spontaneous child within the adult than these creative activities. You can observe this for yourself if you watch kids. Little children don't complain that they have no talent or artistic ability. They love to paint and draw (and play with clay and Play-Doh and finger paints and all manner of art materials). That's all I'm asking you to do. Be a kid again. Play with the materials. Don't judge yourself. Stop striving for perfection or approval. Your Creative Journal is only for your eyes. So relax and have fun.