A friend of mine recently asked me to describe an exercise in The National Intensive Journal, Dr. Ira Progoff's method of journal keeping in the section called "Intersections: Roads Taken and Not Taken." It follows in a nutshell.
When writing in a journal, Frances Heussenstamm taught me long ago to, “No judgments, no comparisons, and give up your need to understand.” This is the key to depth journal work.
For those of you who may not know, Ira Progoff’s National Intensive Journal is an integrated system of writing exercises broken into more than 20 sections in a notebook journal. He developed the method in the late 1960s and it continues to be used and taught to this day. It's much more than a diary. Most serious journal keepers take at least one Progoff workshop in their lifetimes because it lays the groundwork for most other journal and diary methods that have followed it. Though I am certified to teach the Progoff method, periodically I will take a workshop because his carefully thought out method helps me to refocus my life. In the journal I keep daily and the journal workshops I currently offer, I incorporate many of Dr. Progoff's techniques, and those of other journal teachers. But, I always "think" Progoff when I'm writing.
Intersections is a section in the journal that Dr. Progoff called time stretching. The Life History Log is also part of this section. It is part of a series of exercises designed to help us reconstruct our autobiography over time.
It helps us to place ourselves back in those experiences that brought us to a point of transition, to an intersection in our lives, where a change of some kind became inevitable.
Basic to the exercises of this section is the image of the road. Our life is like a road that passes through many environments. As conditions change, it varies its style of movement. But it remains the one road of our life. It takes detours.
Three kinds of life situations lend themselves to writing in Intersections.
1. Roads or paths that were intersections in our lives that we did follow, either by personal choice or because of life situations.
2. Roads we could have taken but for some reason did not. Dr. Progoff called these unlived possibilities, but are often important to explore.
3. Roads we are considering taking at this very point in our lives.
Progoff uses a term called Steppingstones and in the book he recommends that we make lists of major turning points in our lives to date. It’s a form of list. These usually do not exceed 12 and would comprise the choices that were actually made on the road of our life.
Another list of choices that we could have made but didn’t is compiled. Each item can comprise a few sentences to jog your memory.
The third set of steppingstones are those of some choices or possibilities we are currently exploring and will want to either let go or make a choice to follow.
Creating the steppingstones lays the groundwork for Intersections, but there is no reason you can’t move back and forth in your life without the requisite lists. Dr. Progoff recommended that we always begin these kinds of writing exercises with what he called twilight imagery. Personally, I take quiet time and ask Spirit to give me the right intention for the work ahead.
The exercises are always written in the first person. You are actually placing yourself back at the time when the choice was made by you or for you and living it. “I am now---.” I usually set a timer for approximately 15 minutes and just let my life unfold because of that choice--or explore choices not made, or yet to be made.
An Example: A Road Taken
Say I choose an intersection from my life (or steppingstones) I did take. My wedding day and subsequent 27-year marriage for example. “I was married to Ray P. on Sept. 6, 1958—and then—and then—and then.” No rights, no wrongs. Just write.
An Example: A Road Not Taken
“I stayed in my journalism program at San Jose State University and graduated with a B.A. in 1959. And then—and then—and then.”
An Example: A Road I’m Exporing Taking
Here I am, 71-years-old and still the same old human doing, still working, still volunteering, still trying to keep the pace of a 50 year old. I think I might want to stop all my activity and move nearer my son and his family in Port Angeles, WA. "I sold Villa Redondo, packed my earthly belongings and Cookie and I are renting a room in a house near Lake Dawn while I decide what to do next. And then--and then."
In my teaching over the years, I have seen remarkable breakthroughs for some people, particularly in the Road Not Taken option. Many people continue to carry regret about people, situations and circumstances they chose not to follow. Just writing about it, reading it aloud to yourself, tape recording it, or reading it to another person can make all the difference in the richness of life.
If you have questions, e-mail me and I'll try to explain things more clearly.