Home Articles Channels Daily Retreat Inspiration Classroom Boutique Community Singles Resources Contact

SoulfulLiving.com :: Personal Growth, Spiritual Growth, Self Help and Self Improvement

Your #1 Online Resource for Personal and Spiritual Growth Since 2000.
Mandala and Chakra Pendants
New Age Gifts and Products, Buddhist and Tibetan Jewelry, Meditation and Yoga Supplies
Mandala Art Prints



Our Sponsors:

The Mandala Collection :: Buddhist and Conscious Living Gifts
Inspirational Gifts

Energy Muse Jewelry
Energy Muse Jewelry

Body of Grace
Eco-Friendly Gifts

Yoga Download
Yoga Download

The Mandala Collection
Give a Gift with Soul


Discovering Joy
by Tristine Rainer

You are more likely to discover the essence of your individuality by studying the unique composition of your happiness as it appears in the diary than you are by focusing on worries or disappointments. Negative ways of thinking are often an internalized punishing "parent" or other destructive mental habits acquired during childhood. But to find what brings you genuine happiness is to discover who you really are. Marion Milner concluded from her diary writing that "happiness not only needs no justification, but that it is also the only Final test of whether what I am doing is right for me."

Diarists are fortunate in having a tool that allows them to make personal sense out of all the platitudes, theories, philosophies, and cultural conditioning about happiness. They have a means of defining abstract ideas like happiness, love, and freedom within the context of their individual lives. Diarists discover happiness inductively; the evidence is drawn from their feelings and experiences. Because the diary is always becoming, because there is no goal or end to it but only 'the ongoing process, diarists begin to perceive their lives, as Milner further observed, "not as the slow shaping of achievement to fit my preconceived purposes, but as the gradual discovery and growth of a purpose which I did not know." The meaning of a life is discovered from the life itself; and the ingredients of personal happiness are realized as you record your unique experiences of it.

No one can claim that keeping a diary will bring you happiness. Nevertheless, in reading through many lifetime diaries I have observed how men and women on very different paths have discovered happiness for themselves and used the diary for that purpose. Numerous diarists with unhappy childhoods have altered their ways of seeing the world and even their temperaments through diary work. The lifetime diaries of the French writer H. F. Amiel, for example, trace a path from guilt and self-condemnation to a growing maturity and happiness. In his later years Amiel attested to the journal's cathartic and curative powers: "The chief utility of the journal intime is to restore the integrity of the mind and the equilibrium of the conscience, that is, inner health."

Inner health is what the process of the New Diary is all about. It comes from the happiness of an integrated life, which includes loss, love, pain, pleasure, error, success, disappointment, and joy. It comes from the ability to stay in touch will your true feelings, needs, and desires within the rhythm and movement of the ever-changing present, to be alternately active or receptive as the tidal conditions of life demand. It is found in the continuous excitement of living experimentally, in accepting life itself as the goal of life. It is a sense of intimacy with the mysterious movement and process of life, a feeling of "being life."

These attitudes are all accessible through the process of keeping a diary. Yet people often associate the content of diaries—and the creative process generally—primarily with pain and sorrow. Many diarists admit that they write only when they are confused, unhappy, or full of self-pity. Some journals even contain a disclaimer stating that the writer is not really as unhappy as the book would indicate, but that the journal gives a slanted self-portrait. This distortion probably comes about from a Western misconception about creativity as the product of pain and frustration. The Eastern concept of creativity is more inclusive. According to Lady Murasaki, an eleventh-century Japanese diarist, one writes when some experience "has moved him to an emotion so passionate that he can no longer keep it shut up in his heart. Again and again something in his own life or in that around him will seem to the writer so important that he cannot bear to let it pass into oblivion." The creative emotion can be joyful as well as painful.

If your diary points out that you seem to be caught in a negative frame of mind, you might ask yourself if you tend to dismiss your pleasurable experiences and concentrate on the painful ones. You might try making a list of the elements in your life you include in your diary and another list of the elements you forget or neglect to include. Or you might simply ask yourself in writing why you have a tendency toward negativity and allow the answer to come to you intuitively and spontaneously. You may find, like the woman who wrote, "I have this urge not to let myself come off in a positive way here," that the mechanism of guilt makes you feel unworthy of appearing happy to yourself.

Without eliminating other kinds of diary work you can experiment with including positive feelings in the diary. The easiest way to do this is to wait until the next time you feel happy and then to go to the diary with these feelings. Once you have experienced the pleasure of writing out positive feelings you will return to do it again and again. The following sensual description was one woman's first attempt to write out of positive emotions after years of writing only negative entries:

As we walked to the fruit stand at twilight, I was overcome with ecstasy. Each house had a new charm and a story to tell. Colors seemed to have been applied with a brush. At the stand each orange demanded a caress. I wanted to rub each smooth mushroom against my breast. The green and yellows of the squash, the dark blue of the sky, the streak of crimson along the horizon made me drunk with color and air and space.

Recording her elation made it seem more real and consequently a more important part of her life.

There is magic in this process. By changing what you write, you begin to change how you perceive yourself and therefore who you are.

Excerpted from "The New Diary, how to use a journal for self-guidance and expanded creativity" (Tarcher/Putnam) 1978

Tristine Rainer, Ph. D. is the author of Your Life as Story, Discovering the "New Autobiography" and Writing Memoir as Literature, published in hard cover in 1997 by Tarcher/Penguin-Putnam and now available in trade paperback. The book, which hit the L.A.Times bestseller list, came out of Rainer's work over the past twenty years studying autobiographic writing and advising memoirists. Her earlier book The New Diary, how to use a journal for self-guidance and expanded creativity, has sold over 300,000 copies and is considered the definitive work on contemporary diary writing.

Rainer has taught literature and writing in the English departments at UCLA and Indiana University, was a founder and designer of the UCLA Women's Studies program, and co-taught a class for International College with her friend and mentor Anais Nin. Rainer has published both fiction and non-fiction, and has written and produced many two-hour television movies for the major networks, often dramatized from true life stories. One of her films for CBS, "Games Mother Never Taught You" won first place awards from the National Commission on Working Women, the Museum of Television History, and from American Women in Radio and Television; another CBS film "Forbidden Nights" won the 1990 Jimmie award from the Association of Asian Pacific American Artists.

Tristine Rainer is presently Director of the Center for Autobiographic Studies, 260 S. Lake Ave, #220, Pasadena, CA 91101, 818 754-8663, http://www.storyhelp.com. The Center is a non-profit educational organization that encourages the creation and preservation of diaries and memoirs. The Center offers classes and an annual works-in-progress retreat in Santa Barbara. Rainer is also Senior Editor of First Person, a quarterly published by the Center for Autobiographic Studies.

Tristine Rainer is presently on the faculty of the USC Master's in Professional Writing program and teaches in the UCLA Extension Writer's program.


Visit the Center for Autobiographic Studies at:



Daily Soul Retreat at SoulfulLiving.com
Soul Retreat Goodies!

Support SoulfulLiving.com
Show Us Your Love ♥


Energy Muse Jewelry
Energy Muse Jewelry

Wild Divine Meditation Software featuring Deepak Chopra
Meditation Software

Energy Muse - Sacred Yoga Jewelry

Copyright © 1999-2014 Soulful Living®.

Soulful Website Design by The Creative Soul®.