My Experience Going Within
Like everyone else, I've had my history with journaling and self-discovery. I've kept many journals and I've meditated, to varying degrees of success. In the process, I've found out what works for me and what doesn't.
First, I find that when I keep a journal for a period of time, I'm more and more unlikely to go back and look at the entries I've previously written. Especially when a time is particularly difficult, I really don't feel like going back there. I've found my peace with that and trust that even just the process of getting stuff out onto the page is helpful, regardless of whether I look back at it or not. I've found that the journals I use for daily tarot card draws are different--having the entries tied to a card instead of starting with an emotion or a time in my life makes it a lot more fun to go back and connect the dots or see if there's anything good there.
Second, I've realized Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist's Way, is totally dead-on about Morning Pages. When I write first thing in the morning, and just brain-dump onto the page, I'm much freer than if I try to write later in the day. It's something about the conscious mind not being awake yet, or still being in that liminal space between dreams and reality. But I've definitely noticed that if I'm journaling her way I'll get three pages easily, whereas if I put it off till later I have a hard time even writing a page. I can tell I'm thinking too hard, and it's way less entertaining. The shit that comes out before the coffee kicks in is priceless.
Finally, as much as I love writing I've discovered I really need the open-ended space of meditation. Writing, by definition, is progress-based. The point is to get something down on the paper, and if you don't, well you suck. Not really, of course, but the judgement is totally there. Meditation is just about being present, having trust, and being willing to listen. Sitting quietly for even five minutes is real darn hard, and it seems like forever. But listening to the thoughts going through my head instead of writing them is a totally different experience. It also helps me feel like I'm genuinely creating space for new, or old realizations to emerge. And if I don't fall asleep, it's relaxing.