Exploring our deepest truths can be difficult. Sometimes what we find when we open the door is darkness. Sometimes what we find is inconvenient or embarrassing or upsetting. But it is also liberating and important. Because knowing ourselves, truly knowing ourselves, is what helps us to build meaningful, fulfilling lives. It is what helps us to make good decisions. It is what helps us to know what is right—and not right—for us.

One way to explore our deepest truths is through writing.

Because when you write, it’s just you and the page. In fact, this might be one of the only times you’re alone, to think, to reflect, to just be. Yourself. There is no pretending or impressing. There are no distractions, devices or to-dos.

There’s just stillness and seeking. A seeking inside the self.

Writing is a powerful form of self-reflection. It is an opportunity to sit with ourselves, to speak, and to listen. And how often do we actually do that?

To help you explore your deepest truths, below is a list of compelling writing prompts from the new book Writing to Awaken: A Journey of Truth, Transformation & Self-Discovery by Mark Matousek, an author, lecturer and writing teacher.

  • How much of yourself do you keep hidden?
  • What is the source of your greatest shame? When did you first feel ashamed? Where did these messages originate from (e.g., family, religion, culture)?
  • “Describe three masks you wear in different compartments of your life. What are the strengths and limitations of each? How do you get stuck in these various roles?”
  • “Which mask do you wear to hide your shame? What do you fear about taking it off? What will others see that you can’t tolerate?”
  • “How do you overperform in your life? What ideals are you trying to live up to? What are the consequences of not measuring up?”
  • “If you were free of the need to perform and struggle, to prove yourself, how would you like to spend your time?”
  • What are you enthusiastic about in your life?

Pick the prompts that resonate with you. Don’t censor yourself. Write quickly, and write honestly. Revisit your favorite prompts regularly (even 10 minutes can be helpful). After all, we are always evolving.

The key is to approach this process with curiosity.

Matousek half-jokingly asked one of his long-time students, Fern, why she regularly enrolls in the same e-course. Fern is 82 years old. She is a painter. She is an Austrian Jew who’s been through two world wars, the death of her husband, two heart attacks, the loss of a grandchild and much more.

She told Matousek: “Whenever I write, I feel more alive. Even when it’s hard, I come away with more of myself—things I’d forgotten, the lost pieces. It’s an ongoing education for me. Even though I’m using the same questions, I hear them differently every year. And your responses are always different. This is a mirror for how much I’m actually changing. I do this because it helps me keep a record of my inner journey. My journey, which belongs to me and nobody else. You know why Cezanne painted that same mountain more than twenty times? Because that was his work to do, it was teaching him how to see. It didn’t matter how accomplished he was, Cezanne was always learning. Always beginning. It’s the same thing with life. You can’t step into the same river twice. Writing reminds me that now is now, a completely unique moment that will never come again in all of eternity. Isn’t that the most amazing thing? The thing you never want to forget!”

Again, we are always changing. Give yourself the gift of exploring and recording your shifting inner journey—a journey that belongs to you, and only you.