Eva Abbott and Van Temple were in two of my journal groups for a significant amount of time. Eva met monthly for two years in the Jesus House group. Van met monthly for a year in the Men’s Group. They were vital members of these groups, no strangers to journaling when they entered. They had already been doing the Couple’s Meditation Journaling that they write about below.
Couple’s Meditation Journaling
1. Begin with a shared experience. It could be a thoughtful reading, a walk in the woods, a shared worship experience, instrumental music – anything that provides a quiet, unhurried, thoughtful background and a de-cluttering of the mind.
2. Sit quietly together for 5-10 minutes listening for the Voice/voice within.
3. After the time of quiet, each person shares one or two phrases, images, or themes that arose from the listening time. This is not a time for problem solving – it’s a time of creative listening and sharing. This is a time for your imagination, your inner voice to emerge.
Examples from our quiet time:
* What does it mean for us/me to ‘love the children?” (Phrase heard that morning at a sermon)
* “unreasonable hope’ – this phrase surfaced during the quiet time so we decided to journal on it.
* ‘What has been the movement of the Spirit in my/our lives the past 6 months?
* How can I/we make ‘communion with all of life a daily practice rather than a once a week event?’ (From a Quaker book Eva was reading)
4. The phrases, images, questions, and/or themes are proposed and the couple decide which areas they want to focus on. It could be 1, 2, 3 different or similar items – the number is not important.
5. Each person, then, sits quietly and writes whatever flows from the proposed topics or anything else that comes from the moment. Be open to straying off topic.
6. After both are finished (10-20 minutes or so) each takes a turn sharing their journal writing. The Sharer shares, and the Listener listens. After hearing the Sharer, the Listener reflects back what he/she hears the Sharer saying, checking to see if the Sharer was correctly heard. Clarifications then follow. Sometimes, the Listener needs a period of quiet to process what’s been shared before offering the reflective listening. This is encouraged. This is an unhurried, free flowing shared experience.
7. When the first Sharer has shared, been listened to and heard clearly, the second person shares and the process is repeated.
8. After the mutual sharing/listening/reflecting exercise, conversation gradually returns to a more typical back and forth, perhaps with each sharing any overall insights or individual learning, take-aways, images or phrases that are life-giving and helpful for fuller, deeper being.
Postscript: We started doing couple’s journaling initially as a way to communicate beyond some thorny issues early on in our marriage. Later, we incorporated it into our summer vacation in the woods of West Virginia. Three or four times during our week away, we’d spend a couple hours in the morning enjoying this way of being together before heading out to our planned activity. Since moving to New Orleans, we have been able to carve out Sunday as a Sabbath day whereby we usually attend a church service or Quaker Meeting in the morning and, after lunch, settle into the couple’s journaling experience.