Tag Archives: journal

Gratitude: Day 22 of 48

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I’m a writer, have been since elementary school.
I’m grateful I can wield my pen and my words and my voice
intentionally,
and share what’s going on with me
in a way that engages others to share their stories with me.
I’m grateful I was taught to read and write.
I’m grateful I can create worlds in my mind
and assign words to the worlds
in a way that will paint vivid pictures in your mind.
Words are power,
like wind is power,
and fire is power,
and water is power,
and love is power.
May the fact of my sharing
help one person know that they aren’t alone.
May these words written from my heart
reach out into the world
and make it a more loving place!

Writing Meditation

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Hello there friends.  I’m wondering if any of my fellow bloggers out there also keep a personal journal as a part of their writing practice.  Since starting out on this blog project on January 1 and following through with daily posts, I have watched myself revive my long lost daily journal writing practice, and have been doing both my blog writing and my journaling in tandem for quite a while.  It is such a relief to come back home to myself through my writing, to give myself that sacred space to flush out the brain and tune in to the being in me beyond the neurotic, recurring, frantic, hectic, critical, dissatisfied thoughts that often plague my waking consciousness.

My evening meditations have been less than amazing, to put it gently.    First of all, I have been so tired when I sit at night that I often manage just a few minutes before I start nodding off.  Then I end up heading to bed, wondering when I’ll have the energy for a full thirty-five minute sit.  And then finally I watch myself feeling guilty for not being able to commit to sitting upright for a longer period of time…yikes! When meditation turns into another opportunity for a guilt trip dealt by my emotional system, something needs to change, wouldn’t you say?

It seems as though I have been lacking the discipline to really follow through on my evening meditation practice, but I have shown up for it.  I have put my butt on my cushion, even if it is for only a few minutes.  And this has been my way of compromising…instead of chastising myself for not showing up for my evening practice–which I established in January of 2013 to supplement my morning practice–I still show up for it, just not for the entire duration. Ah life, and the little dances we do to navigate the challenges of it all.

Tonight I thought, “Well, if my sitting meditation isn’t working out so great, maybe it’s time to try something else.  What not a writing meditation?” I set my timer for thirty-five minutes, and committed to just letting the thoughts, my breath, and the ink from my pen flow, non-stop, for the whole time.  “This is a meditation,” I figured, “as good a meditation as anything else.  I am bringing my mind to a still point, I am paying attention to my inner world, I am sitting more or less in stillness.” Yes, a writing meditation.

And you know what? It was pretty great.  Ten pages of allowing myself to think and feel and express seem to me to be progress.  I stayed awake, I was engaged, and I even uncovered an emotional loophole, which I’ll write about in my poem tonight.

So just curious.  Do any of you keep a journal?  Do you write in it regularly?  Have you approached your writing as a meditation before?

The Purple Pen

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I’m just going to admit it,
because that is a big part of this project–
to admit to myself when I have acted
obsessively, or out of anxiety,
or resistance, or anger,
or peacefully, or joyfully–
just to be aware of the many facets of myself.

Tonight I delved into my obsessive nature
by becoming fixated on a purple pen.
You see, I am a bit of a stylophile.
Actually, that is inaccurate…
I have had a life-long obsession with pens.
Especially fine pointed, colorful pens,
and especially if they come in a set.
It has been this way my whole life as a writing being,
from childhood on up.
I just love pens.
That is how it is.

Tonight I discovered that the purple pen was missing!
One of my favorite colors out of a set of pens
with ultra fine points–.25 mm–dear God, how beautiful!
It could’ve been the light blue one that has never worked quite right,
or the pink one because, well, pink is okay, but–
DEAR GOD NOT THE PURPLE ONE!

So do you know what I did?
Instead of just shrugging it off,
reassuring myself that it will either turn up
or I can buy myself another,
I LOOKED FOR THE GODDAMNED PEN.
And not just for a few minutes, no…
I was searching in nooks and crannies
where a pen just wouldn’t ever be,
hoping to catch a glimpse of the thing.

Backtracking in my mind,
I tried to pinpoint the exact location
where I saw it last,
as if I had lost a camera,
or a diamond ring,
or a set of car keys,
or my journal.

At any rate, I couldn’t remember when I saw it last,
and I continued to look for it.

I finally caught myself doing this
after searching for it for the
umpty-umpth time…
I slowly sat down, opened my journal,
wrote about the obsessive behavior
and the time wasted as I was enmeshed with it.
I also wrote about all of the things I’m grateful for,
and spent a moment savoring the knowing
that all of my needs are met…in this moment.

And then I wrote,
Breathing in,
I am aware that I am breathing in.
Breathing out,
I am aware that I am breathing out.

I took a deep breath,
and another.
I brought my mind back to this moment,
smiled at myself.
And remembered that this, too, is yoga.

Writing 101, Day Twenty: The Things We Treasure

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Today is the last day of Writing 101?  Really?  Only twenty assignments?  I could keep going.  Like maybe 60 more…I don’t mean to sound like a sadistic overachiever or anything, but I’ve come to look forward to my daily assignment; there are so many facets of writing that I have overlooked because I’ve been stuck to my journal for so long, just me and my journal…which means I haven’t explored point of view, or voice, or style, or much of anything else besides my own thoughts.

It’s obvious to me now that I could branch out more with my writing, and I’m grateful to the organizers of Writing 101 for providing me with the opportunity to play around with word crafting that is far outside of my comfort zone.  I discovered that I’m terrified of writing fiction although I think I have some really great ideas.  If I hadn’t been given the assignment to play around with some fictional characters, I most likely would never have entertained the idea of allowing some made up beings to take life in my mind, in my words, out in this world.  Maybe one day I will write that book that is floating in the vast, unexplored ocean of consciousness, floating in the center of my being.

For today, we are asked to discuss our most treasured  possession.  Here’s an excerpt of the prompt:

Tell us the story of your most-prized possession.

It’s the final day of the challenge already?! Let’s make sure we end it with a bang — or, in our case, with some furious collective tapping on our keyboards. For this final assignment, lead us through the history of an object that bears a special meaning to you.

A family heirloom, a flea market find, a childhood memento — all are fair game. What matters is that, through your writing, you breathe life into that object, moving your readers enough to understand its value.

Today’s twist: We extolled the virtues of brevity back on day five, but now, let’s jump to the other side of the spectrum and turn to longform writing. Let’s celebrate the drawn-out, slowly cooked, wide-shot narrative.

Hmmmmm.  I guess I’ll dive in before my brain gets too involved and shoots down every blessed thought and idea that might arise.  But before I do, let me just say that I feel perfectly comfortable writing a longer piece.  Most of my posts are longer.  In fact I’ve been trying to write shorter pieces because I imagine most people don’t have the time to read anything past a hundred words or so, and I do appreciate when people take the time to read, so shortening my pieces seems like an obvious solution to make reading my stuff more feasible for the busy folks who kindly take the time to stop by my blog.  It’s funny though, I’ve pretty much failed miserably at my attempts to incorporate brevity into my writing practice.  I guess I’m just long-winded (long-worded?) by nature.

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If I Could Be Said to Possess Anything

At first I couldn’t think of any one prized possession that could be used as the subject of today’s post.  Imagining the objects in my life, mentally going through them room by room in my house, I discover that I don’t have much in my life that couldn’t be easily replaced.  I won’t write about my husband or my children, because I don’t possess them.  In fact could I be said to possess anything?  The path of yoga has helped me to see that in the end nothing lasts forever, possession is an illusion, and ultimately we can take nothing with us when we exit this world of form.  Knowing this, I have begun an earnest effort to practice non-attachment, and so it becomes harder for me to call into my awareness any one thing that I really treasure.

But if I could be said to possess anything, and if I were asked which of my possessions I treasure most, it would have to be the collection of journals I have amassed over the years, beginning with my fifth grade diary.  I know that there is a Poochie diary somewhere on my parents’ scary property, but I won’t go searching for it, not just yet.  The property is trashed by my father’s hoarding sickness, and looking for a diary in a hoarder’s stash is like well, looking for a needle in a haystack.  But I do remember the thing–I started the Poochie diary in second grade.  I remember writing about the three boys in my class on whom I had a crush.  Yep.  Second grade crushes.  I even remember their names: Michael Q., David C., and Travis M.

The fifth grade diary was begun with much excitement. There was an inspirational invitation at the very beginning of the book, an invitation to write about anything and everything, and to write as often or as little as I liked.  I remember writing the first page and explaining that I bought the diary for myself to hold my words.  I also wrote about the little presents I bought for my family members at the same time that I ordered my diary–it was almost Christmastime when the order arrived.

The first diary was kept intermittently.  I would turn to it especially in times of trial, but I do remember sharing a perfect day I had, all the little things I did in one sweet day of my innocent life as a girl child.  I remember eating potato chips and climbing trees and watching birds; it was probably summer time, because I spent the entire day outside.  I also remember writing about my grandmother’s suicide, about my twin sister winning the affection of a young man with whom both of us were enamored, and the secret heartbreak, the unshed tears, the overwhelming devastation I felt when he chose her over me.  That was in sixth grade.  They were together three years, as together as you can call a middle school aged couple.

My tenth grade English teacher had us keep a journal over three weeks’ time and write in it daily.  It was the first time I had a regular writing practice, and although at moments it felt like a burden, by the end of the three weeks I was hooked.  I actually felt kind of sorry for my teacher when I saw him collect all of our marbled composition books; how was that man going to find the time to read three weeks’ worth of journal entries from twenty students?  But read them he did, and he even left comments in the margins.  What a guy. I didn’t maintain a regular practice when the assignment was over, but I did write more frequently than I had been writing previously, and by the time I got to college, there was no question that I would have a journal in my life at all times.

My best friend in college also kept a journal; we were kindred spirits from the beginning and spent hours talking about our dreams, sharing music, creating art together, going on long walks through the forests of the Blue Ridge mountains in southwestern Virginia.  This friend helped me to see journal writing as a sacred art, and she lit a fire in me to take more seriously the time I spent with my words, because it was also time I was spending with my heart, my soul–my deepest, most precious self.  I can recall writing about a young man whose brother was in my choir, which is how we met.  I still remember the fruit salad I brought to the cookout my choir friend hosted for those of us who were staying in town after the school year was over.  I can still see him sitting there at the long table, so unbelievably good looking it took my breath away.  And I wrote about him.  And I wrote about him.  And I wrote and I wrote and I wrote…starting with the love at first sight stage and wondering how I could arrange meeting up with him again, managing to get him to go on a hike with me,  our clandestine coupling outside of the watchful eye of his very Catholic mother, to the heartbreak of his stony silence when I took my junior year abroad in France, when he didn’t have the decency to just break up with me–my journal was my solace when no one else could offer the comfort I needed to mitigate the deep sense of mourning, of loss.  A part of me still carries a torch for that one; I thought he was my destiny.  He certainly was handsome and funny and smart and creative, and there was something about being his first lover that made me want to keep him.  But he didn’t want to be kept.

And then my journal held the stories of each young man in whom I sought the love I couldn’t give myself. I could have opened a league of nations in my dorm room.  A Bosnian, a Spaniard, an Australian, three Frenchmen–one from the island of La Reunion–and then to finish off the year, a good old down home sweet faced American boy who ended up being relationship worthy, if only he didn’t live clear across the country in Washington state.  That one made me laugh, made me relax, helped me to feel safe and sexy and fun.  I’m still grateful for the time I spent with him.

And those are the journals from the first twenty-one years of my life…I could talk about the stories the journals from the subsequent sixteen years now hold within their pages, but I won’t, not today.  I’m overwhelmed thinking about all of those words I’ve written, all of those stories, all of those people, those places, those experiences.  Lonely times, times of courage, times of triumph, of deep dark depression, of communion with nature, of being lost in the urban jungle, lost in my own mind, lost in the search for love, always looking outside of myself for love, realizing the folly of that even at a young age–somehow never heeding my own advice–needing to rewrite that story over and over with many different characters, in different countries, yet always the same story.

My journal work has been of immeasurable value as I have come to many insights as I watched my words taking form on the page, fountain pen in hand, ink flowing.  Surprising realizations have burst forth, and tears also, because my journal is also a safe space to let go and emote when I feel confined by my ideas of propriety out in the world I share with others.  My journal has been my friend and ally, a constant companion, a past time, a comfort, proof of my joys and sorrows, a record keeper.  It has been very valuable indeed on my life path, revealing cycles of my thoughts and feelings and behaviors, helping me to get clear with myself about what I want to give to this life, and what I want to receive from it.

Decades of life stories, held in many volumes–I have never counted–and the bulk of them are stored in paper boxes down in the basement.  What will I do with them?  They are so heavy, and there are so many of them that they could really slow us down whenever we decide to move.  I have considered burning them in a symbolic act of release, letting go of the past that I might be fully open to this moment–but every time I pull one of my journals out at random, and open the book to any page, I’m startled by what I knew, before I knew how much I knew.  It’s like the soul of me could understand the whole truth of it all before my brain and body could grasp even a shred of it.

I think I may keep them, these old friends.  If nothing else, they’ll make great fuel for a huge bonfire one day. That would be a gutsy act of non-attacment, would it not?  Volumes of my life just thrown away, because those stories are in the past, because I don’t truly possess these books, these stories–at some point we will be separated from one another in this finite world of form.

But possession or not, I think I may keep them.

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Thank You, Dear Friend

Dear Friend,
Thank you.
Thank you for being there when no one else wanted to
When no one else could be there
When I wouldn’t let anyone in
When I didn’t know who I was
When I wanted so much that the pain of wanting burned me
When I didn’t feel any sense of belonging
When I was completely lost

Thank you friend for being there.
Thank you for being there when I was sick
When I was happy
When I was too shy to share a dream
but wanted someone to know about it
wanted to feel the joy of making the dream that much more real
Thank you for not laughing at my doodles, my attempts at art
Thank you for listening without judgment, without interruption
Thank you for showing me the proof of my goodness
When everyone else told me otherwise

Thank you dear friend.
Thank you dear friend.

Memories of Spiritual Unfolding

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My earliest memories connected with anything spiritual involve my dad, which is completely ironic because he is a self-proclaimed atheist who belongs–as he says–to “the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent.” One day, when I was young enough to be held in his arms, I remember talking with him about God, insisting that I knew what God looked like, even after he repeatedly said that no one knows what God looks like. We were in my Mom-Mom’s old house on Wilson Avenue in Parkville.  A devout Catholic, she had depictions of Mary and Christ in several strategic places around her house.

“There,” I said, pointing to a picture of Christ hanging on the wall, “That’s God.”

“No,” my Dad corrected, “That isn’t God. That’s Jesus.”  I was disappointed. I could have sworn that this sweet looking dude on the wall with the kind eyes was God. Not God?? Really?

Another memory involves my Dad showing me a newspaper article about a yogi who meditated for ten days straight, neither eating, nor drinking, nor sleeping, nor using the bathroom the whole time. The man in the picture was in full lotus pose, eyes closed, and his expression was serene. I was mesmerized. How could he suspend the recurring needs of the body for this inordinate length of time?  This guy knows something I don’t know, I said to myself, I wonder what it is.

Growing up with an atheist dad and a mother with quiet spiritual leanings, I was given lots of space to decide on my own what to think or believe about the great Beyond.  I yearned to explore the realm of spirit, but lacked a guiding hand that could point me in the direction of getting my questions answered. And yet, is that true? Because, aren’t we always guided, whether we know it or not?

I remember being interested in ghosts and ESP (telepathy, clairvoyance) as an elementary schooler. In the fourth grade I checked out every book in the school library that had any mention of ghosts or special powers.  Stories about past lives intrigued me. I wanted to learn how to cultivate my mental powers to read others’ thoughts and transmit my own thoughts wordlessly.

My twin sister and I read a book about channeling in the seventh grade:  Opening to Channel, by Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer. We wanted to learn how to connect with spirit guides who would transmit information to us beyond our present understanding, that we might grow and evolve and transcend our challenges.  And we had plenty of challenges in the seventh grade. Painfully thin, tall, straight A students, twins–we were the target of a great deal of ridicule on a daily basis. What sets us apart makes us vulnerable. Many an afternoon, after stepping off of the school bus, the first thing I would do would be to burst into tears.  We wanted to find answers. We wanted to transcend our suffering. Sitting together in stillness and listening for guidance proved to be helpful. The guidance that came through was always kind, loving, compassionate–never vengeful. I remember being surprised that there wasn’t the slightest hint of meanness, no suggestions on how to get back at those who were harassing us. There were invitations to consider how our peers might have arrived at such a state to say the things they did, and we were offered the thought that these experiences might be serving us in some way. Radical acceptance, and the promise that eventually it would all become more clear.

My aunt gave me a book called Meditation by Eknath Easwaran when I was in high school. I began a fairly regular meditation practice that lasted until my freshman year of college.  I thought meditating would be too weird in a small dorm room with a roommate, so I axed the practice and didn’t return to it for many years.  Looking back, I wish I would’ve stayed with my practice; I think it would’ve given me a much more stable foundation on which to build an understanding of myself and my behaviors in this world. Of course, what use is it to wish for the past to be different? My past led me to this moment, here, now. It was the time spent not meditating that helped me to fully appreciate the return to my practice when I was ready.

I kept my first diary in second grade. I remember starting another when I was in fifth grade, and it was eighth grade before all of the pages of that second diary were full. I remember turning to my diary in my middle school years when things were tough and I wanted clarity, wanted to vent, to grieve, to explore. Weeks, months even, would pass in between entries; my writing was spotty, emotionally raw, my handwriting was slanted and a bit messy.

My real writing practice began in my sophomore year of high school with a three week journal project assigned by a beloved English teacher. I found writing so enjoyable, cathartic, and satisfying during those three weeks that I decided to keep going after the assignment was over.  Thus began my decades long love affair with journal writing, an affair that continues today. Nowhere have I experienced more spiritual growth than in the pages of my journals.  Nowhere have I felt safer, clearer, and at ease. Nowhere have I felt more like my Self.

As I approach the second of the twelve steps this month, as I work on coming to believe that a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity, it is only natural for me to do some exploring in my journal. Magic happens when I touch pen to paper, especially if that pen is a fountain pen and the ink is flowing fast and fresh and unsmearing (I’m a lefty).

Perhaps if I give myself some unstructured writing time about this idea of “coming to believe,” some unexpected wisdom might flow forth. I might be surprised. Maybe I can overcome the doubt, the voice of the father who told me that I don’t know what God looks like. Maybe I can  sidestep my awe of the yogi who knows more than I do and bring my focus back to the self who knows exactly what it needs to know. Maybe I can sit in stillness, and listen to words of wisdom coming from somewhere beyond the little self that is afraid of losing control, afraid of change.

The most important element here is my own receptivity, my willingness to be with what is, to open to awareness beyond my daily recurring thoughts. I look forward to what can happen in such an open, curious innocent place. Time to meditate now.

Singletasking

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Anybody who has taken care of children and has wanted to get anything else done has come to know the importance of multitasking. The children may be bellowing for lunch, and while I’m waiting for the food to heat up, I’m also emptying the dishwasher, switching out a load of laundry, changing the cats’ water, responding to a colleague’s email, picking up books and toys that have been strewn about on the living room floor, running to the bathroom to pee at turbo speed so that no one has the chance to hurt anyone else in my absence. My attention can be divided many different ways, and lots of things can still get done–but I end up feeling a bit rushed, tense, trying to accomplish so much in so little time.

I decided today, when I had a moment to myself, that I was going to try to give all of my attention to just one task, in five minute increments. And this, I decided, was going to feel meditative and restful. I needed to fill out a bunch of paperwork for a new yoga teaching gig with one of the local recreation and parks councils, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. At all. I kind of hate filling out form and form after form. You know the image of someone dangling a carrot in front of a donkey’s nose to keep the beast moving forward? Normally at a time like this, faced with a distasteful task, I offer myself some kind of carrot to keep my attention going in the forward direction, giving me hope for my life after the task is complete. So that’s what I started to do. After I fill those papers out, I told myself, I’m going to let myself write in my journal for a while. Because what I really wanted to do was write in my journal. Not laundry, not paperwork, not lunch preparation, journal.

There is a danger in this offering myself a carrot for motivation, and putting off doing what I really want to do so that I can first handle something I really don’t like.  To a bystander this delayed gratification technique might seem like a normal adult thing to do, a good idea. However, I’ve done this enough to realize that I actually don’t get to the thing I really want to do, because there are so many other priorities that take precedence over my desire to create, or rest, or just sit and enjoy a cup of tea. And of course you know what happens when we don’t get to do the thing we really want to do. We sad.

Hence, my idea of five minute increments of “singletasking.” Five minutes is an utterly reasonable period of time to devote all of my attention to something boring, knowing that I will switch to something lovely right after. So I reached for my iPhone, brought up my Insight Timer app, and programmed a sixty minute session with bells ringing every five minutes to signal when it was time to switch tasks.

It worked. I put the paperwork aside when the interval bells rang, and I happily reached for my journal. Oh joy! I’m a fountain pen girl, and I just recently switched the cartridge in my pen to some beautiful turquoise ink. How delicious it was to move from the black and white of tax withholding forms to the creamy pages of my Moleskine Volant journal and the flow of blue-green dancing at the tip of my pen.

Of course, five minutes later, I needed to set the beautiful thing down, and pick up the black pen and get back to the paperwork grindstone. And having to stop my thoughts short, when I was so ready to keep them going down my arm, through my hand, down the pen, and onto the page, well…that felt like…I’d tell you what it felt like, but I’d need to make sure you’re 18 first. Hint: The color blue. Second Hint: Male parts, involved in reproduction. SighBeing a woman, I’ve never had to experience firsthand what I’m alluding to, but having had plenty of guy friends tell me all about it, I can safely say that putting the cap on my pen when I’m full of ideas that want to just dance and shout and cry out onto the page is… just like that.

So singletasking. It worked. I must’ve switched back and forth between filling out forms and writing in my journal about four times before the paperwork was done, and it was time to jump into the rest of the morning’s tasks.  I finished with my journal, and I felt delighted. Content. Satisfied. And I was ready to tackle getting my son ready to go out into the frigid winter air so that we could 1)Drop off the forms at the rec office, 2)Pick up some groceries, 3)Fetch my daughter from preschool, 4)Return home, put groceries away, prepare lunch.

That moment with my journal and those forms gave me ideas about the same kind of structure applied to different tasks. This afternoon I rolled out my yoga mat, and dragged the three brimming baskets of clean laundry to the table to fold. I set the timer. I was ready to practice yoga and fold laundry in five minute increments. I am going to save the world! This is great! I was pretty excited to see how this was going to unfold. Or should I say, fold?

But then my neighbor came over with her son. My mat got rolled up and stowed against the wall. Her son joined my two kids who were parked in front of the TV watching a movie, and I folded the three loads of laundry while we talked.  The female companionship was just as good–if not better–than practicing asana. Time ceased to exist while I listened and was heard. But that is another story for another day.

Toodle loo!