Making Connections

How to gain insight

I recently received THE NEW YORKER magazine as a holiday gift.  In the January 8, 2007, issue is an article by Joan Acocella, “Nights at the Opera:  The life of the man who put words to Mozart,” which is about several books recently written about Lorenzo Da Ponte, the librettist for several Mozart operas.  In an interesting observations about Da Ponte’s autobiography, Ms. Acocella writes:  “Never does Da Ponte try to connect the events of his life to his own character.  This may be the least introspective autobiography ever written.”

I made a mental note of that quote  because what I believe is what’s most motivating about journaling is making connections between one’s life and one’s character. The context for these connections can be as minimal as a walk on the beach or as big as winning the Pulitzer Prize. Any event may reflect a life pattern. For example, as part of my therapy to strengthen my leg (which I broke in August), I’ve been walking barefoot on the beach. I’ve been trying to go either early in the morning or around sunset. The light is soft and spectacular those times of day–the clouds and water reflect an enormous range of colors. I set out with the goal to walk in the least packed sand to give my ankles and feet the best workout. Invariably I realize about halfway through my walk that I’ve been looking down at the sand and missing the majesty and serenity of the full beach experience–the gentle sound of the water, the changing interplay of sunlight and clouds, the birds diving in the water feeding on fish.

My beach walking experience reminds me how I spend too much of life: I’m so involved in the challenges at the task at hand that I keep my eyes focused on the immediate problem that I’m trying to solve and miss out on the joy and beauty of the bigger picture of my life.

Here are some questions you might ask yourself when journaling: What recent event, activity, article, or conversation of any size caught my attention recently and stuck with me? After you describe the event/activity, see if you can find any connection between it and another situation in your life. See if an image, a memory, or a sensation pops up in your mind. Follow that idea and see if it takes you into a new dimension giving you a richer and deeper viewpoint and new insight.