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Inspiration from Maya Angelou

Inspiration from Maya Angelou

“Listen to yourself and in the quietude you might hear the voice of God.”       –Maya Angelou                        

These words were the final tweet from renowned writer Dr. Maya Angelou, who passed away May 28, 2014. Best known for her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou was an inspiration to many, including me.

I’m a collector of inspirational quotes, and Maya Angelou has supplied me with many. Here are just a few of them:

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”

“When you know better, you do better.”

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”

Quotes can be great journaling prompts. For example, I used Angelou’s tweet, “Listen to yourself and in the quietude you might hear the voice of God,” to journal about the different ways I listen to myself. And, of course, journaling itself was on the list! I journal to listen to myself, to hear that still, small voice inside me that is my inner wisdom.


One of my favorite journaling techniques is the Inner Wisdom Dialogue. On the page, a dialogue looks like a script:

                     Me: I’m so overwhelmed! How can I best spend my time and energy?

                     Inner Wisdom: Spend your time and energy on things that feed your soul, your creativity.

                     Me: But there are so many important things I need to do.

                     Inner Wisdom: Feeding your soul IS important.

Try writing a dialogue with your inner wisdom, that wise part of you that knows what’s best for you. You can also dialogue with your Higher Self, your Higher Power, God, or any other expression you may have of your inner wisdom. What matters is not what you call it but that fact that journaling provides a way for you to access it.

After the dialogue, reflect on what you have learned from your inner wisdom. You might be surprised by the insights you gain!


✎ In what ways do YOU listen to yourself?✎ 


Interview with Dawn Herring

Interview with Dawn Herring

Dawn Herring photoThis week I’ve had the privilege of interviewing Dawn Herring, a writer, journal writer, artist and host of the monthly #JournalChat Live for all things journaling on Twitter. Her thematic focus is on journal writing, refreshment, positive change and personal empowerment on her blog, Refresh with Dawn Herring: For a Fresh Perspective and in her published articles. She publishes a monthly Refresh Journal, offers private Refresh Sessions to help you discover Who You Are through Authentic Refreshment, and is the author of The Birthday Wall: Create a Collage to Celebrate Your Child. She is also office manager and director of Social Media and SEO for Bill’s Quality Electric, LLC. She always reminds folks to refresh themselves. Her website is

MIR: Tell us about your passion for journaling. When did it begin? Why do you journal?

DH: I had my first taste of journaling when I met my husband. I jotted down our adventures which eventually led up to getting married and having two daughters to journal about. This gave me further reason to keep the pen to the page even more frequently. Once I started homeschooling my girls, it became a daily practice. They are now both grown!

Journaling became a passion with my more frequent entries, and now I wouldn’t live without it. It has become a catalyst for discovery of Who I Am and has enabled me to appreciate myself, validate my emotions and feelings and nurture my soul. It gives me space to express my opinion, release angst, solve problems and activate my intuition. My creativity has also flourished as a result.

MIR: What’s your process? Do you journal every day?

DH: My journaling practice is part of the fabric of my daily life. My journaling routine starts first thing with dream journaling and personal journaling, where I establish my thoughts and plans for the day so I know my priorities and direction. Plus it helps me build my daily to do list! Journaling has a way of reminding me of what I haven’t done yet, which is great.

If I take a break after lunch (when I’m in office, I do), I journal my activities and sometimes on prompts from friends who provide fabulous e-course fodder. Now I also do my own Refresh Intensive e-course which contains journaling questions, art journal ideas and activities to activate your intuition, help you honor your preferences and listen to your life messages.

I also do an evening entry before bedtime which includes a list of the most prominent activities and events of the day, both positive and negative, with each getting a star or X. This list is a visual reminder of how my day went and my emotional response to it. Plus I now summarize my day with a word or phrase and doodle it for fun and, sometimes, amusement!

Never a day goes by without at least one journal entry, most times two, and sometimes three.

MIR: How do you stay inspired?

DH: There are several dimensions of my life that are a constant inspiration: My life experiences; I love recording how my intuition has guided me on the right path (in conjunction with prayer and meditation); My creativity as a watercolor and collage artist as I record my studio experiences (I also keep a journal for art journal and fine art ideas); My grandboy as I record his growth and personality and the fun we have together; Hearing or seeing my beloved mocking bird as I record his activity; and my connection with Spirit, especially as a result of my prayer/meditation time.

MIR: Do you use different journaling techniques?

DH: Yes, I do. One of my favorites is writing an entry with my dominant hand and then alternating with my non-dominant hand; this enables me to activate both sides of the brain for a more balanced approach.

I also do Q&A dialogue with my Higher Self (Intuition); every time I use this technique, I am amazed with what I discover. It often gets right to the heart of whatever matter I’m grappling with, and it really helps me appreciate myself for Who I Am.

I also use journal prompts from my Refresh Intensive E-Course and others (as mentioned earlier).

Sometimes I will write lists or do mind maps. I try to pay very close attention to words or phrases that carry great meaning for me so I can learn the underlying purposes for them; they often resonate profoundly. The lists and mind maps are newer approaches I just started using this year since I switched from writing in lined journals to unlined sketchbooks; so I feel more freedom to try new, varied techniques that open the visual component to journaling all the more. It’s really a rather spontaneous way to keep my journaling practice unique and alive to Who I Am.
I also love to Doodle, as I mentioned above, with my focus word or phrase for the day. It gives me freedom to draw at will, not concerning myself for the artistic quality of what I produce but to simply have fun. As a life-long artist, this is very beneficial to me to just do something spontaneously without concern for whether it “looks” good. I can be as messy as I want to be.

I’m having more fun and gaining new insights more than ever with these techniques. It Rocks!

MIR: You also do art journaling. Can you tell us a little about that? Why do you like to art journal?

DH: I started my first art journal in January of 2010. My desire was to try watercolor, a new medium for me, and combine it with collage, a new artistic and visual approach. At first, it was just images with watercolor backgrounds. But as I learned more about different art supplies, techniques and approaches to art journaling on blogs and websites, my work began to become more layered. Keeping an art journal was my initiation into what I call Intuitive Painting, where I just paint what I want without a specific goal or image in mind. This is a very freeing form of art since, up to that point, my art focus had always been with a mix of pencil, colored pencil and charcoal to do portraits and replications of things. So intuitive painting became a whole new outlet which I adored right from the start.

I always start a new art journal layout, usually on both sides of a spiral sketchbook or mixed media notebook, by putting gesso on the page, which is a great primer to keep the page from tearing or absorbing too much moisture from wet media. I also use gesso on top of layers already done to either tone them down or simply to add texture.

I also enjoy pulling images and colorful pages from magazines and either use them for image transfers in my art journal or for collage purposes, where I tear pieces and adhere them to the page for visual and textural interest; I adore this process. It’s very intuitive and hands on. I don’t overthink this; I just go with the flow.

I love using rubber stamps to create text, whatever comes to mind as I study what I’ve put down so far.

The thing I love so much about art journaling is the place it gives me to express myself using whatever application I desire; when I do this, it opens up the subconscious mind, and I learn things about myself that I don’t know if I would learn in any other form of expression. It also becomes a warm up of sorts for the fine art watercolor work that I do.

I always love how I feel after I’ve played in my art journal; art journaling and personal journaling are sources of true authentic refreshment for me.

MIR: What would you recommend for a beginner as far as materials to buy to start with and perhaps books on art journaling?

DH: If you just want to work with markers, pens and pencils, just a simple sketch book would work well; you can doodle, draw and write to your heart’s content.

If you want to use wet media, I recommend using gesso to prime the pages first; then you can use watercolors, acrylics, or other wet media.

Mixed media art journals are a great resource for your substrate (surface) if you want to add wet media, plus paper/collage and other layers for texture. Alphabet rubber stamps are great if you don’t want to doodle. One set of upper and lower case letters is a good start. I would collect magazines to pull images from so you have color and paper to work with for collage.

I also recommend using matte or gel medium for an adhesive versus regular glue; it holds better and has a smoother application.

My book recommendations for art journaling are from my good friend, Quinn McDonald. One title is Raw Art Journaling. In this book, she shows you a simpler approach to journaling that gives you space to get to the heart of your journaling with exercises to get the creative juices flowing. Her newest title is Inner Hero. I also recommend Art Journal Freedom by Dina Wakley; she discusses various color and placement theories in a fun and understandable process that I found quite enjoyable.

MIR: Tell us about your offerings and where readers can get more information about them.

DH: My newest offering is my 21 Day Refresh Intensive E-Course which helps you Activate Your Intuition, Honor Your Preferences and Listen to Your Life Messages. Based on seven topics of Emotion, Color, Field Trips, Music, Decision Making, Place and Resources, each day’s activity contains journal prompts, art journal ideas and other FUN FACTOR activities to engage you and give you a fresh perspective in these life dimensions. Also provided is a private Refresh Intensive Facebook Group where you can share your discoveries during the course in a supportive and refreshing environment. You can sign up for this e-course on my website.

I also offer private Refresh Sessions to help you get a fresh perspective and create a customized refreshment-based routine/regimen to enhance your daily life so that refreshment becomes a lifestyle, woven into the fabric of your daily experience.

Refresh Journal is my monthly e-journal that contains journaling information and refreshing tips, plus news and upcoming events. They can subscribe from my website.

I host the monthly #JournalChat Live for all things journaling on Twitter on the First Sunday of each month at 4 EST/1 PST; we have a new topic for each session as we discuss ways to keep a journal and to make it relevant and effective on a daily basis. All information for each Sunday Session in on my website.

I have also recently created an Open #JournalChat Live Facebook Group for all things journaling where folks can share their journaling experience and get support in an encouraging environment for their journaling practice.

MIR: Do you have a journal prompt for us today?

DH: Indeed I do. Life is all about being authentic to yourself, your personality, your preferences and your purpose in life. Engaging in authentic refreshment on a daily basis is something I highly recommend for fun and to enhance your wellbeing.

Prompt: What activity do you engage in that refreshes you in an authentic manner, where it provides opportunity to appreciate yourself for Who You Are, enables you to validate your emotions and feelings, and nurtures your soul? How often do you engage in it? When was the last time you did? When do you plan to do it again? Why do you do this activity? How does it benefit you the most? Determine what holds you back from engaging with it daily, and record one small step you can take to make it part of your routine.

MIR: Thanks, Dawn!

Write your story, change your life

Write your story, change your life



I write to understand my life. Whether it’s in the form of memoir for others to read or in the form of journaling for my eyes only, I write to make sense of Life. I write to create meaning.

So what is it about writing that makes me understand my life?

When I write things down, I clear some space in my otherwise overly-cluttered mind so that I can see more clearly what’s going on in my life. Furthermore, I can look at what I’ve written and see things that were unclear to me before.

I may not understand the meaning of what I’m writing as I write it, but when I re-read what I’ve written, hidden truths may appear. I can write about these truths and come to an even deeper understanding of what has happened and where I am in the journey of my life. The more I write, over time, a narrative will emerge out of the seemingly disconnected diary entries. My journal will provide the sense of a journey being taken.

There is something very satisfying about narrative. I think we’re all drawn to Story because stories are comforting. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. There are causes and effects. Unlike life, as we’re living it, which rarely offers easy explanations or neat endings.

As I write, I am creating the story of my life. I am creating a narrative of all the disparate strands.

I think many of us, if not all of us, are compelled to express that which we remember, to create a record. Just look at the current popularity of scrapbooking and memoir writing. We’ve always been interested in telling the story of what happened, to say “I was here and this is what happened; here’s how I survived and this is what I learned.”

People have written diaries for centuries. We’ve written narratives for ages. And we’ve done so not only to understand our lives, but to change our lives. That is the most incredible thing about the journaling process: by creating my story, I can change my story. That’s right: we can change our stories. When we write to ‘move on’ from a tragedy, for example, we are writing the story so that we can live a different story.

This is possible because writing creates awareness, and with increased awareness comes the opportunity to change the trajectory of our lives. In that sense, writing is extraordinarily empowering. When we discover in our journals a pattern or a role that we’ve been playing that we no longer wish to play, then we can choose for ourselves a different narrative on which to continue, one that is more aligned with our desired path. That is the power of writing!

Re-read something you’ve written and write about the truths you discover there.


Returning to myself

Returning to myself

I haven’t journaled in several days, and whenever that happens, I get a little crazy (scattered, unfocused, anxious). So why do I not write when I know it’s good for me? Well, why don’t I exercise or meditate when I know those things are good for me? 

I have many excuses for not doing the things I say I want to do: I’m too busy, other things are more important (like taxes), I don’t feel like it today but I’ll do it tomorrow, I’m not in the mood, I’m too tired, I’m too hungry, I’m too distracted.

What I’m really saying is that I don’t have time (want to take the time) to be with myself, to take care of myself, to sit with my own thoughts and feelings for two minutes. It can be scary to do the things you want to do. A voice may appear that says, “You’re being selfish” or “You’re not being productive”. But if we don’t prioritize taking care of ourselves, who will?!

Luckily, every day is a new opportunity to do the things we really want to do. Today I went for a long walk. Back home, I meditated for 5 minutes, and then I wrote in my journal for 5 minutes. Who doesn’t have 5 minutes to sit and just breathe? Who doesn’t have 5 minutes to check in with yourself?

The journal is so forgiving, always welcoming you back like a lost friend. As Burghild Nina Holzer puts it, “…it is possible to return to myself, to return to this flow, at any time, anywhere, even for just a short time span.”

Write for 5 minutes, checking in with yourself. What’s going on with you today?



Journaling and the authentic life

Journaling and the authentic life


At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want. – Lao Tzu 

There are so many voices telling us what to do, what to say, what to wear, even what to think. How do we know what we really want or who we really are? How can we find that still small voice that is our own in the midst of all these other voices?

A journal can help you live an authentic life. It is one of the tools I’m using to discover who I really am and what I really want in life. The wonderful thing about a journal is that it lets you explore your feelings without judging, blaming, or rejecting you. It accepts you for who you are.

I started journaling when I was about 13, in painstakingly perfect cursive handwriting. My diary entries were short and unemotional, merely a phrase or two describing what I’d done that day. A few years later my journal became a best friend with whom I shared all my secrets. Adolescent angst poured onto the page in stream-of-consciousness rants. In my twenties and early thirties, the journal sustained me through break-ups, moves, and self-doubt. I wrote mostly on scraps of paper, finding fancy journals intimidating.

Lately my journal has become a messy catch-all. I buy fancy, but inexpensive, journals, and write as messily as I want about anything that strikes me. I use techniques that I’ve learned in the “Journal to the Self” class, things like Dialogues, Unsent Letters, Clustering, and Captured Moments. I record my dreams. I jot down ideas for creative writing projects. I make lists. I write down inspiring quotes from books I’m reading. Because there are no rules in journaling! You can make your journal whatever you need it to be. By incorporating new journaling techniques, each with its own focus and advantages, I’ve expanded my journal: there are endless possibilities!

In her beautiful book, A Walk Between Heaven and Earth: A Personal Journal on Writing and the Creative Process, Burghild Nina Holzer says,

A journal can be anything! You hear me? A journal can be anything!…You can make it              your sitting practice – a daily meditation, a quiet time with yourself. I like to take mine for a walk, whether my legs move or not. My writing is a walking meditation, I find stillness in movement. My journal is a vision quest, searching for something, entry after entry, finding myself. (p. 11-12)

My journal reminds me of who I am when I feel lost. It helps me to listen to that still small voice inside me that always knows.

Write for 5 minutes about who you are and what you want.