If your last journal entry was in crayon and something along the lines of “Dear Diary,” don’t panic.
The kind of journaling I’m talking about here has nothing to do with recounting how your day was. Use of gel pens and stickers is optional.
My kind of journaling channels your inner wisdom, releases unwanted thoughts, manifests your desires, and leaves you with a sense of confidence and clarity. It’s the ideal complement to yoga and meditation.
Here’s my recipe on how to journal your way to a better life.
For most if us, it’s a good idea to MOVE before buckling ourselves into our journaling seat. Exercise in any form gets your creative juices flowing and burns off any frantic or anxious energy that may be taking up space in the body.
Your yoga practice specifically helps quiet your vritti (mind chatter) and helps connect you with atman, your deepest, most authentic self. Both of these things are essential for the kind of journaling we’ll be doing later on.
During your yoga practice, set the intention that you want to connect with your deepest self, your inner wisdom.
Let your physical asana practice be a shedding or “burning off” of your day-to-day duties and identities. When you hit shavasana, ideally you feel calm, centered, and peaceful.
The goal here is to spend a few more moments in silence to tune out the world and tune in to your inner voice. If you have a regular pranayama and meditation practice, do that. If meditation’s not your thing, just sit quietly for a few minutes and focus on your breath.
As you sit, focus on your desire to connect with your wisest self and with universal consciousness at-large (the infinite wisdom of the universe).
You can imagine a beam of light moving up your spine, connecting to the heavens above. You can visualize a vast ocean of intelligence that you’re sinking into you. You can visualize a deity or the presence of someone comforting and calming from your past coming toward you. If you prefer something more practical, visualize yourself as a beautiful old woman or man, filled to the brim with wisdom.
Staying connected with this state the best you can, grab your pen and favorite notebook or reach for your computer. Begin writing down questions or worries—anything that’s on your mind. Next, see if you feel called to write commentary or answers to these prompts from your highest self.
Your journaling session my take a few different routes, and they are all good.
RELEASE: You only write down questions or things that are on your mind. Your journaling session turns into endless questions, rants, or just word vomit. Just release every thought or worry inside of you onto the page.
This is still immensely therapeutic, and likely whatever you write about will be closer to your heart and deeper to the root cause of what’s troubling you than if you just started writing a rant without doing yoga first. You’ll also feel lighter after getting these thoughts out of your head and onto the page.
Looking at what you wrote after the fact may spark insights or help your see connections about what’s going on in your life that weren’t there before. You gain a sense of clarity by releasing your thoughts and then observing them without judgment. This style of journaling is the perfect way to embody what yoga also teaches us—you are not your thoughts.
FREE FORM: Other days you may find that after you write your troubles, thoughts, and questions stream-of-consciousness–style, answers or commentary from your highest self begin to pop into your head, and you write those down as well.
I like to think of these impulsive answers that appear out of nowhere as your deepest self or guardian angel talking to you through writing. The prep work of connecting with your highest self through yoga and meditation that we did earlier now manifests as conversing on the page with your wisest self. Your journaling may take on a Jekyll-and-Hyde format in which your scared self asks questions and expresses fears, and your “big” atman self answers them powerfully and intuitively.
This is the most exciting kind of journaling session, since it’s free coaching/therapy from the person who knows what’s truly best for you—YOURSELF. It can be shocking to see how much that powerful, wise, intuitive voice has to say to you when you give them space on the page.
INTENTION: You have no idea what to write and are just completely, totally, blocked. Your mind is Jell-O. You can’t even get yourself to write out your questions and thoughts, stream-of-consciousness. If this happens, resort to fallback plan of just writing out exactly what you want, in the present tense, as a way to manifest your desires. For example, I might write:
My June retreat to Italy is full. We’re seeing incredible artwork in Florence during the day and swimming in our hotel pool at night. Everyone is relaxed and having a good time. I’m teaching at the intersection of art and yoga at my highest potential.
When you run out of things to say, just keep writing the same desires over and over. Hone in on key phrases and desires, like “I am teaching at my highest potential,” or “I am confident and achieve my goals with grace,” and write just that repeatedly, 5, 10, 20 times.
This is a great want to sow the seeds of your desires in your nervous system and let the universe know what you want.
1. Don’t stress if your preferred way to write is on a computer.
You don’t need to be writing in perfect cursive on sacred parchment paper for any of this to work. If you enjoy writing by hand, by all means, treat yourself to your favorite pens and high quality paper. But if it’s easier for you to write on your PC, do that instead. Just try to have Word or Evernote already open on your computer with any other distractions (aka Facebook) closed so you can go from yoga or meditation directly into writing without getting sidetracked.
2. Make journaling fit your personal style.
If you meditate regularly and love incense, cards and mala beads, pull them all out to help create a sacred space for your journaling time. If those things aren’t your style and you just want to plop in front of the computer after a run when your endorphins and mental energy is high, do that instead. As long as you make time to write after some sort of physical exercise, you’re doing it right.
3. Release expectations.
You never know if your journaling session will turn into a Q&A session with your highest self, full of jaw-dropping insights, or if you’ll just write stream-of-consciousness with no directive or answers. The important thing is to see writing as a ritual form of release and self-connection. Make it a habit. Let go of the desire for results. The embedded benefit is the tremendous self-awareness you gain no matter what.
The next time you feel uncertain, anxious or insecure, resist Google-ing your problem, distracting yourself on social media or calling on someone else for advice. Try journaling instead. You never know. The confidence and answers you seek likely lay within you.
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