Progoff’s Period Log

“As the oak tree lies hidden in the depths of the acorn, so the wholeness of the human personality with its fullness of spiritual and creative capacities lies hidden in the depths of the human being silently waiting for its opportunity to emerge.” — Ira Progoff, Depth Psychology and Modern Man

What Progoff created in the Intensive Journal is a process of writing that enables a person’s deep inner wisdom to become conscious and a source of guidance in their journal writing and in the conduct of our lives. He wanted to give people a tool that was practical and of use in whatever setting a person might be.

I have had my copy of At A Journal Workshop for over twenty years and regularly turned to it when I am working with people who have signed up for the writing courses I regularly offer. Although I have a well-marked copy of this classic book about journal writing I have never undertaken the course. However, I am tempted to go to Eremos in Sydney in November to complete a two-day course.

After writing about the atmosphere of a journal workshop Progoff introduces what he calls the Period Log as a way to begin the work of drawing our life into focus. He talks about beginning with the Now but explains that the Now is not limited to an immediate instant.

When I consider the NowI am reminded of a session with my ‘therapist’ (journal) where we discussed my perception of how much the landscape of the internet has changed since I ran the Soul Food Cafe. I went on to explore, in stream-of-consciousness, how I am no longer sure where or whether I fit in. My period log provides the space where I can record these insights in a succinct, objective entry. I also included a sketch of myself looking from the outside, in wonder at the overcrowded urban cities that have sprung up in cyber-space. I also note aspects of a recurring dream where I cannot find my way in an urban environment.

After completing an exercise like this in a class setting I often ask participants to identify a character and, using material from their entry, write a scene in the first person. After completing an exercise which involved going inside a sea shell Jannali used her observations to complete a piece.

When searching the internet I found  Ed Levin sharing entries from his period log.It is worth exploring Levin’s blog to see how he has been working in an online setting.

A book I strongly recommend that participants examine is ‘A Life Of One’s Own’ by Joanna Field (Marion Milner). In my mind, this is like the Period Log Progoff speaks of. Check out the review at Brain Pickings to learn more about this amazing existential experiment, much beloved by W.H. Auden. After writing this Milner went on to fill her ninety-eight years with a life of uncommon contentment, informed by her learnings from this intensive seven-year self-examination.

Remember that the Present Period will vary with each individual. It may:

  • reach back three years since a car accident
  • go back even further to the time when you walked away from life as you knew it
  • simply be a few weeks after meeting a new friend
  • the period after moving house
  • be about the period after beginning a new job
  • be after an epiphany

Before beginning to undertake an entry in your journal learn about Entrance Meditations.

Random Observations

Adventitious Violet offers some random observations of her week in Italy.

It would be nice to get away from it all, catch a flight and head off to Italy. I could sit in a Piazza, with my journal for companionship, sip coffee and spend some time observing my surroundings. However, the truth is I don’t have to go that far.

Today I was sitting in my favourite coffee house and as I savoured my latte I randomly observed that the young man at the adjoining table was writing in his journal. His journal was like a work of art. He was writing in miniature, carefully constructing each word, each line.

When he packed up and was preparing to leave I told him that I had been observing him and said that I had the vision of him being a monk in one of those monasteries where men patiently sat at desks creating beautifully crafted illuminated manuscripts.

He smiled, pulled up his hoodie and said that the least he could do was complete the look.

Members of my Great Escape – Intensive Journal group are set homework. There are no penalties for not completing tasks. I ask them to spend a week finding places where they can go with their journals and make random observations.

Postcard Travel Journals

Travel Journaling Prompts – to use when writing postcard journal entries.

20 travel journaling prompts that you can use. You don’t have to travel overseas or interstate. You might be happy to catch a bus or train or simply drive to a nearby town or city and write postcards to store in sleeves in your journal.

  1. Top 5 moments from my day.
  2. What I ate today.
  3. Most surprising sight, smell, sound or taste from my trip so far.
  4. What do I hear, see and smell around me right now?
  5. What songs/kind of music have I frequently heard?
  6. Travel advice I’d give a younger me.
  7. 5 things I’d do while travelling if I knew I wouldn’t fail.
  8. 5 new experiences I’ve had.
  9. My packing list for the trip.
  10. What I wish I’d packed.
  11. What I wish I’d left home.
  12. 5 best meals I’ve eaten.
  13. Prices of items I’ve bought (e.g., snacks, toothpaste, a pen).
  14. Words I’ve learned in the local language.
  15. Conversations I’ve engaged in.
  16. What I’ve found at the grocery store that surprised me.
  17. Top 5 desserts I’ve eaten.
  18. Places where I’ve met new people.
  19. 5 things I’m learning about myself.
  20. Where I want to travel next.

As homework, I ask members of my face to face class to keep a postcard journal for a week. They can source postcards or buy a special travel journal to keep in their creative medicine bags ready for when they take a trip or go on a mystery tour.

Sukie and Etsy have a wonderful collection to choose from. I bought my Sukie journal when I was in Berlin a few years ago.

Four Reasons to Establish A Journal

Some Reasons Why You Should Be Journaling

1. Journaling Relieves Stress

Writing professionally can be stressful. Demands on word counts and creativity can be draining. You might think, why on earth would I de-stress from writing by writing? When you’re writing creatively, you’re writing for a specific purpose. You are fleshing out your characters, setting a scene, or moving plot along. But when you journal, you are just marinating in your own thoughts. Putting your worries, frustrations, and victories to paper can help you add closure to your day, and can provide an emotional release. (This is assuming that you’re journaling before bed.)

2. Journaling Helps You Process Your Thoughts

Sometimes in the midst of releasing your emotions on paper, your mind is clear enough to work through those emotions, and figure out solutions to your frustrations. I’ve had some great “a-ha” moments when I’m journaling, or maybe thirty minutes to an hour after closing my journal I’ve found mental peace after littering pages with word vomit. And who knows? Maybe in the midst of one of your own word vomit sessions, you’ll find the solution to that plot hole you unintentionally fell into. By the way, if you spend time journaling, you’re likely to be physically and emotionally healthier according to a 2005 scientific study.

3. Journaling Boosts Your Self-Esteem

If you spend ten minutes every day writing about something positive you did or something you like about yourself, your self-esteem will thank you. Similarly, writing five things you’re thankful for each day can make you more grateful, and as a result, can make you happier. You’re enforcing positive truths about yourself and your writing each time you practice this.

4. You’ll Be In Good Company

Kurt Cobain. Abraham Lincoln. Leonardo Da Vinci. Andy Warhol They all kept journals. If it worked for them, who’s to say what you’ll get from the practice of journaling? The hardest part of journaling is starting the habit. The easiest way is to schedule a time for yourself that will be consistent every day. Get a notebook that you love looking at or touching, or if you prefer to go digital, try Evernote or other note-taking apps. Of course, there’s always blogging if you’re ok with being more public with your mental processes. No matter which route you take, journaling is a worthwhile life practice to start. Do you journal? How does it improve your life? Let us know in the comments section!

Source: The Write Practice

Make a Start by Positioning Yourself in the Present

Set a timer for ten minutes and tackle these questions as spontaneously as possible.

  1. What is the story I tell myself about my writing life and who I am as a writer?
  2. How can I reframe this story?
  3. What is the story I would really like to be telling myself about my writing life?

African Sleeping Sickness

Over recent weeks I have spent dark days
Lethargically slumped
over my writing desk
I have been feeling dispirited and dull
My concentration has gone
and I am now prone
To frequent,
unpredictable mood changes

For days now I have felt indifferent
decidedly irritable and
if you so much as looks at me
I am likely to snarl viciously and
Aggressively demand to know
why, just because
I teach people how to write
Everyone expects me to be an accomplished writer

What could someone
With a banal daily life like mine
Possibly have to write
In verse or prose for that matter?
Of what consequence
Are my sporadic, deranged mutterings?
It has all been a façade, a masquerade
all done with smoke and mirrors

This proliferation, this sudden invasion of my organs
this debilitating infection of my brain has left me
suffering from a chronic, torpor
It is an effort even
to raise my pen
I am suffering from daytime insomnia
exhausted by periods of sleep-like unconsciousness
And fear I will slip into a deep coma
wither and die of sleeping sickness

Sleeping sickness?
First described in the fourteenth century
when Sultan Djata of the Kingdom of Melli
was stricken by a lethargy that killed him
Only methodical destruction
of the tsetse flies habitat
repelled the spread but now, centuries later
a fresh reservoir of blood lies unprotected

Only a vigilant mobile surveillance system
with specialized staff
using effective diagnostic tools and
improved field control strategies
Will repel this resurgence
control this vigorous strain of sleeping sickness
causing neurological impairment in
lonely writers and artists all over the world

I wrote this many years ago when I was summoning the courage to face each day with my husband who was battling bowel cancer. Over recent months the malaise has taken a grip and bought my creativity to a grinding halt.

Seeking regeneration.

Cabinet of Curiosities

A cabinet of wondrous curios
A delightful collection
Carefully placed
Lying, seeming unconnected
Next to each other
Triggering memories
Permitting the mind to
Wander to faraway places

Scales, microtomes,
Drafting tools,
Magic lanterns
Antique candle powered projectors
Fine laboratory glassware
Vintage beakers, funnels, test tubes, crucibles,
Dessicating jars
And a one-off hand blown, baroque piece carefully stored

A pair of rare wax anatomical models
Crutches and callipers,
Arm braces,
Blood pressure meters
And first aid dummies
Antique botanical prints
Woolly mammoth hair
Spiny trilobites,
Skulls, fish and ammonites stored in labelled draws.

Butterflies mounted in Petri dishes
An Atlantis Moth
Whimsical and wonderful
Packets of seed,
Very old taxidermy birds, in excellent condition
Hand-made pills,
Patent medicines and toiletries.
The scent of human breast milk, swamp water and sex
Stored in tiny laboratory vials

All combine to fill
A purveyors
wonder chamber of
creative stimuli

Weighing Words

An eye for an eye
A tooth for a tooth

Within the field of rushes
Lies the heart of one
Mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend,
Whose time in this realm is done?

Within the field of rushes
Lies the heart of one
Teacher, counsellor, advocate, imagineer, friend
Who took but gave an eye, a tooth, a shoulder

Earth to Earth
Ashes to ashes dust to dust

Within the field of rushes
Lies a heart of one
Who gave more than she took
Who returns to the source

As light as a feather

Heather Blakey March 29 2005


Singing Over Bones

I have excavated the skeletal remains
Of the child I was
Before my childhood was unceremoniously snatched
Before betrayal stole joy and eroded the flesh
Before the burdensome grief of another
Weighed down my shoulders
stunting growth.

I look at the remains and remember
that I knew who I was
all those long years ago.

I was a happy carefree child with a sunny disposition
Who played practical jokes
Whited all the sand shoes
Lined dolls up
Made tea on the back verandah
Taught French from dusty texts
Was infused with the magic of treasure hunts
Played in a cubby house
under the shelter of majestic Pussy Willow trees
that lined our back fence.

I remember that I was
the gentle, studious one
steeped in mythos
who loved the library and
her own company
causing barely a ripple to family life

I look at the skeletal remains and ever so carefully
Place them in my saddle bag
to carry and sing over
to bring flesh to
and discover joy, in simple things
all over again.