The philosopher Plato long ago said “Know thyself,” and few paths are as effective as the simple practice of mindfulness. We get hooked on patterns of belief about a particular story we have been telling ourselves, such as “There’s never enough money” or “Love is impossible to find”, etc, whether or not these stories are actually true. Using mindfulness, we pay attention to who we are at any given moment to look for patterns that are either causing, or easing, suffering.
Keeping a journal can play a significant role in our self-awareness. Journaling can help us see patterns that may or may not be helpful in our lives, and allow us to make changes if we see fit to do so. By journaling, we can grow to trust ourselves, to glean the wisdom from the tingly feeling in our gut, or the heaviness in our hearts.
We journal to gather the courage to move forward in life based on a deeply felt sensation, a more honest guttural feeling of “YES!” We let the colors of our darkness out onto a page, and often find that it’s actually not so terrible after all. And when it is terrible, we can face our challenges with clarity and intention.
We journal because it is cathartic. We journal year after year because writing honestly feels raw and truthful, even though not all of it is good. Most of it, the mental chatter of the monkey mind, just comes and goes. Each day’s pages are an uncovering, a chipping away at the layers of bull crap that hide the stunning jewel of our hearts. It’s heavy under our mental BS. And as the pages and words and tears flow, misunderstandings of ourselves and the world around us get diffused along the way.
So, write. Write everyday if you can. Write because words are like a link, a collective arm-hold from across years and cultures. Write because your story needs to be told, and understood. Write because bit by bit you can make some sense out of a world that seems to make little or no sense. Write so you can steer your boat, drive in a direction that makes sense to you, ground yourself on solid earth. Write because it just feels so damned good to write, to let the cat out of the bag, to realize there is no bag in the first place. Write to realize all the stories we tell ourselves have consequences, and we can change our stories, and in doing so, heal our lives.
If you are ready to be fully alive, or if you are feeling stuck, over-emotional or if you need clarity in your life, start journaling. It’ll be your BFF, a friend for life. It’s actually really easy to begin, and here are three tips to help you engage your self-study practice tomorrow morning:
Head to your local drug store and find a $4 journal. Get a spiral bound school notebook and a favorite pen, and put them in your nightstand drawer, ready for action. Or get a fancy-boots journal and expensive pen, whatever works for you.
Commit to 10 minutes each morning.
To start the process, give yourself 5, 10 or 15 minutes each morning. Before you get out of bed to start your day, after you have just awakened, simply grab your journal and write. Commit to a reasonable time that will make sense to your schedule. At the very least, commit to a minimum time five or ten minutes. But also be open - if the spirit calls you and your schedule allows, write until you are “done.”
Let it flow.
Just write in a stream of consciousness. You’re not trying to impress anyone, justify your thoughts or emotions, or otherwise get kudos for being you. You are not writing the final draft of War & Peace. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, recommends doing three pages right as you wake up. We are in this wonderful half-asleep, half-awake state, when the mind has very few of it’s usual protective walls and logical thinking built up around it for the day. This way, you are more able to access your unfiltered thoughts, not the primped for prime-time thoughts. This unfiltered writing can be very helpful in “dumping” a lot of negative mental chatter. If you can’t see it, you can’t change it.
Consider starting, or reengaging, your journaling practice and engage a friend for life.Author Bio
William (Will) Donnelly is a nationally recognized, certified yoga teacher and inspirational writer and author. For several years, he partnered with SpiritualityHealth.com to offer insightful essays for daily living. Now, his best and most inspirational essays have been re-edited and organized together in his book, Practical Yoga’s Wisdom for Everyday People: Essays & Inspiration for Life, available at Amazon.com.
Will has been a pioneer in the field of yoga, developing his signature Practical Yoga, and co-creating the yoga–reality series Guru2Go for fitTV (as writer, host, producer: Discovery Communications, 2004). Will has worked with AOL/Time Warner to write & produce fitness & wellness workout content, and is the editor and lead creative director of the international Yoga for Every Body daily newsletter, originally a partnership with EverydayHealth.com/Waterfront Media (350,000 subscribers/day).
While living in Hawaii, Will founded the Writing From the Core (2011) prompt-based writing class at Kalani retreat center. He encourages all students to trust their impulses and find their true voice. Will lives on the Big Island of Hawaii, where he leads weekly yoga and writing classes. He also leads several popular Practical Yoga adventure and healing retreats in Hawaii throughout the year, including a Writing Retreat in March 2018. For more information on his book, streaming yoga DVDs, and retreats, visit WillsPracticalYoga.com.
Photo Credit: David MacLean (for the piece pic, writers at table)
Photo Credit: Venetia Featherstone-Whitty (for Will at ocean pic)