In Faith at Hand ~ Finding My Way to Depth Journaling, the story of an unanticipated midlife transformation, to be published at Thanksgiving of 2018, Barclay Braden draws from a fertile interplay of formative experiences — geographic, educational, and professional — that have contributed to shape her development. She has found ongoing revelation in discovering the felt power of distinctly different landscapes as life has taken her into a wide variety of new terrain.
Growing up in northern California, she moved at the age of ten to the agricultural setting of the Sacramento Valley, where her father was starting into the farm equipment business. She was excited about the country home her family was soon renting in the midst of prune and walnut groves. But at that point she began to worry about the families of migrant workers who lived seasonally, in surrounding orchards, in the roughness of camping conditions. Of special concern, as she herself was about to enter fifth grade in the local school system, were the bracero children, whose schooling appeared to her to be intermittent and interrupted. Enveloped by the activity of complex ranch operations, along with the intense heat of late summer and the sweet smell of drying prunes from the adjacent dehydrator, she would retreat with a book to the sanctuary of the wooden treehouse built for her by her father.
A few years later, as a young teen, she was fortunate to enjoy several summers at Four Winds, a saltwater camp for girls on an island in Puget Sound, where freedom, imagination and creativity were actively prized. Then, during her two final years of high school, she had the opportunity of living in the fog and sun drenched coastal climate of the Monterey Peninsula, where she graduated with honors from the Santa Catalina School. Although not raised Catholic, within this vibrant and peaceful convent setting she opened to the stirring experience of a spiritually infused lifestyle.
She was grateful for college acceptance at Stanford and for the opportunity to learn to navigate through an environment of intense intellectual challenge. In an academic atmosphere dominated by logic and linear thinking, it took her some time to appreciate that her own most meaningful learning was all about feeling. She discovered in the study of literature an ongoing fascination with experiences of heightened aliveness, fuller awareness, and deeper human connection — heartfelt interests which persisted as a graduate student, as a teacher, as a practicing psychotherapist, as a journal keeper, and now as a writer.
Upon college graduation she passed up an invitation from the Peace Corps to teach French in Ghana, and instead married and moved to New York City where she turned her attention toward equipping herself as a teacher. Undertaking a master’s degree from New York University in education, she began a lifelong pondering about those factors which optimize human development. Teaching in Harlem, her convictions were tested in inner-city classrooms, first at a public school and then at the private New Lincoln School nearby, where she taught ten-year-olds and continued to investigate the primary elements that allow for successful learning. Gradually recognizing that she herself was best suited for working more closely with others as individuals, while wanting to understand more deeply the inner workings of motivation and achievement, she decided to embark upon a career in psychology.
During nearly a decade of subsequent graduate school, again at NYU, this time in counseling, and then at the Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, she earned two additional master’s degrees before completing her doctorate in clinical psychology. Her training encompassed a broad base of field experience, in schools, colleges, counseling centers, and hospital settings. Her internship year was spent at the Bronx Psychiatric Center, where she worked with people on a locked inpatient unit. Meantime, pursuing her interest in adult development, she proceeded with her doctoral research, in-depth interviews with more than one hundred midlife subjects. The finished dissertation, Dreams for Development, confirmed her central hypotheses on the potential impact of holding a dream for the future in adolescence and young adulthood.
Completing her doctorate, while turning forty and officially entering her own chapter of midlife, Barclay moved onward to a different state to begin a new marriage and launch her professional life. In the northwest corner of Massachusetts, in the rolling green mountains of the Berkshires, once again dwelling in the evocative force of rural beauty, she was both happy and gratified to find a position that allowed her to work within a comprehensive community mental health setting. In the scenic New England towns of North Adams and Williamstown, in a stimulating atmosphere of historic, academic, and cultural richness, she once more dealt with a demanding array of clinical challenges. Included were on-call emergency duty, high school and college consultation, psychological testing and evaluation, in addition to her role as a psychotherapist with a broad spectrum of clients. Within a few years she was licensed and ready to open the private practice she had dreamed about during the long period of preparation. She was not prepared, however, for the surprise unfolding of new developments within her own psyche.
Faith at Hand describes the significant turning points Barclay experienced in undergoing a radical shift in worldview — one which led to her ultimate discovery of Depth Journaling™ and the illuminating perspective to be gained from the simple tool of writing with the nondominant hand. She began to take notes on her inner life and soon realized the centering power of contemplative writing. Once again dwelling in the evocative force of rural beauty, she found herself increasingly more intrigued with the nuances of directing her everyday attention and awareness. This unanticipated journey of mid-life transformation took place over the course of a twenty-year period while she practiced as a psychologist.
To her ongoing surprise, Barclay’s life has continued to take her in unexpected directions, including to homes in both north-central Florida and north-central California. Upon retirement from active practice, she and her husband were drawn by the warmth and light of rural Florida, where she could turn attention to her writing life. There they have savored the sanctuary opportunity of living within a fifty-three-acre nature reserve. Rancho Sacramento is named in honor of her own childhood growing up in the landscape of the state’s Central Valley and to Braden family roots tracing to mission days in California. She now returns to the west for part of each year to her small hometown on a bend in the Sacramento River, preserving precious ties to history, friends and family.
Thirty years later, she continues to find inspiration in spiritual wisdom that confirms her beliefs as a psychologist. In telling her story, it is her mission to share the psychospiritual benefits of this profound method of self-discovery dialogue. In addition, her curiosity persists about the inner neurological mechanisms of how this simple but astounding writing method may work to activate new perception and new perspective.
At this new life point, she is currently embarking upon further research learning about the experience of others in using the nondominant hand. She invites you to be in touch about your own inner action and adventure while writing with this extraordinary self-exploration tool. Read her story and tell her your own. firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2018 Barclay Braden