visual journaling guide: creating a life vision

This guide is a model for how to prioritize self-care through creative journaling. Designed with clergy people in mind this path is for anyone who tends to give of themselves selflessly, for those who see God in others and seek to help all in need, for those who have an empathy for pain in others that motivates them to action, and finally for those with these characteristics who also have trouble setting boundaries in order to make self-care a priority. These self-denying habits have become the standard for those in the helping professions and this book is part of a wave of works that seek to push back on the notion of self-forgetting as path toward doing God’s will. Jesus said our second priority is to “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matthew 32:29). But -what if- you consistently do not love yourself? What if you neglect your own well-being? What does that say about our ability to love others?

Rochelle Melander and Harold Eppley authors of The Spiritual Leader’s Guide to Self-Care carefully define self-care. “Self-care involves more than eating a balanced diet and regularly visiting the doctor. Self-care means living the life God has intended for you. You are God’s own creation. Your task is to be yourself, the person God has called you to be.”[1] Melander and Eppley created a 52-week guide for self-care that involves several foci and this self-care guide follows the example of their evolution of thought while elaborating on the themes with creative self-care practices involving craft and visual arts.

This guide is influenced as well by Parker Palmer’s work, Let Your Life Speak. The book augments our self-care journey because, as clergy we must continue to listen to the call of God on our vocation, and how we carry out our call from God. Palmer’s book emphasizes the individual’s ability to discern their vocational call by attentiveness to the organic development of their life.

This creative journaling is informed by the work of expressive art therapists Barbara Ganim and Susan Fox, who wrote Visual Journaling: Going Deeper than Words. Their work relies on imagery, rather than words to reach deep-rooted feelings. They say, “Words separate us from our feelings. They tell us what we should do, while the feelings that tell us what we must do often go unheard.”[2] This guide is a practice in self-care and uses drawing and creative expression to work through a process of creating a life vision.

Because I believe in the process I have added my own paintings produced while following the program. This is a practice that I have begun developing over the last years during my seminary education. It has been invaluable as a tool for managing self-care and maintaining a routine of conscious contact with God. This prayer ritual allows for me to maintain a consistent prayer ritual and this guided fashion allows for the expression of feelings in the pieces. I truly believe in this process and I urge you to open your mind to the possibility of this type of journaling to connect one with their own emotions, which is so important in ministry.

complete-self-care-guide-creative-journaling (download here)

[1] Eppley, Harold & Melander, Rochelle. The Spiritual Leader’s Guide to Self-Care.” (An Alban Institute Publication, 2002, Xiii).

[2] Ganim, Barbara & Fox, Susan. Visual Journaling: Going Deeper than Words. (Wheaton, IL: Quest Books Theosophical Publishing House, 1999), 10.