Writing as a spiritual practice

The quest for spiritual expansion begins with emotional transparency. However when we have difficult experiences in life the normal response is to bottle up our feelings, thoughts and memories. On top of this layer of denial or hidden shame, we’re also encouraged collectively to guard our secrets by phrases such as, ‘what happens behind closed doors, stays behind closed doors.’

Most of the amazing people I’ve met in 12 step recovery programs sincerely desire healing and restoration in their lives. The term “we are only as sick as our secrets” is a common recovery phrase, encouraging members to get to a place of emotional transparency. Learning to open up and express the full range of our human emotions is a scary but beautiful part of the recovery, healing and transformation journey. It’s also part of being human. If people are threatened when you express your feelings, I would encourage you to do it anyway. King David shows us in the Old Testament how to give voice to the full range of human emotion, both alone and before God.

Many years ago I experienced an emotional and spiritual break (down) THROUGH.  Before my  breakthrough I was serving South East Asian refugees in California. Many of the women I served had fled The Killing Fields in Cambodia and were now living as immigrants and refugees in Oakland. I was tasked with helping them find care giving jobs in homes around Oakland and the Bay Area. When the women confided in me about their war trauma I wasn’t equipped to handle it. However it was like a lantern that highlighted my own trauma from growing up with violent conflict in Northern Ireland. I moved back to Northern Ireland after my experience with those women and I began to study the roots of the conflict I had known.

This winter I did a six week writing course that I hoped would improve my writing. I was surprised when it began to unlock doors that were ready to open. I had still buried a lot, emotionally. However the structured writing prompts helped to bring more of my difficult and broken experiences into the light. The other writers on the course were a great resource too. I leaned into their courage and allowed their light to come around me as I shared.

I’m not sure if I improved my writing but I discovered anew that writing is a great tool to help us express things that have been buried for far too long. When the time is right and in a safe environment doors open and creativity begins to flow.  When we write about the full range of our human experience; good and bad it’s more than a therapeutic exercise. It’s an active force of renewal and encouragement in the world.

Write on !



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