Mental Smog? Grab a Journal and Write
Great words of wisdom, applicable to practicing yogis and non-yogis alike. Yoga is primarily about self-study (Svadhyaya). We pay attention to who we are at any given moment to look for patterns that are either causing, or easing, suffering. Mindfulness is key in developing a strong self awareness, and keeping a journal can play a significant role in your self-study practice.
In this day and age, it’s easy to get mentally foggy and enmeshed in our daily obligations and distractions, while slowly letting go of our deepest and most important desires. Life is frittered away by detail, Thoreau says. Most of us are now constantly overrun with information, and our minds are discovering the downside to the Information Age.
We also get hooked on patterns of belief about a particular story we may have been telling ourselves, (i.e. “There’s never enough money” or “Love is impossible to find”, etc) whether or not this is actually the case. 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.
But why journal, you ask? Can I just be mindful?”
I have been journaling for almost two decades, and there have been times when it played a significant role in saving me from going bonkers (that’s a euphemism for going bat-shit crazy.) By journaling, I have grown to trust myself, to glean the wisdom from the tingly feeling in my gut, or the heaviness in my heart, to gather the courage to move forward in my 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.
I lead a weekly writing group at Kalani in Hawaii. When asked, I say I journal because it helps. I journal because it is cathartic. I journal because after all these years of writing honestly, it amazes me what I have to say. And 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 my heart. It’s heavy under this mental BS. And as the pages and words and tears have flowed, my misunderstandings of myself and the world have been diffused with them.
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 for accelerated growth, or if you are feeling a bit stuck, over emotional or needing 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:
1. Grab a journal.
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, whatever works for you.
2. 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, just 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. But also be open - if the spirit calls you and your schedule allows, write until you are “done.”
3. Let it flow.
Just go stream of consciousness. You’re not trying to impress anyone, justify your thoughts or emotions, or otherwise get kudos for being you. Julia Cameron 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 journal practice and discover a friend for life. Your self.