“The Enlightened You” Journaling: Help or Hinder?

Neeraja writes:
Is journaling a beneficial way to observe the mind? Or does it keep the ‘you’ trapped in the story, in a pattern?
GREAT question or at least one that I REALLY like! Neeraja, I have been journaling off and on for decades now, and it has done both from time to time. I have noticed things (patterns and styles of writing, etc.) in the writing of the past that have supported keeping the story alive, and I have noticed ways of writing that does help to support awareness. I am a firm believer in the use of journaling as a tool to support awareness and recommend it often, and use it as a foundational tool for specific classes.
When I first began to seriously journal, it was because I was taking a specific course that included journaling. The exercise was to hand-write three full pages EVERY morning before I did anything. I journaled like this during the whole course, which took about 6 months to complete, and after the course, I kept it going for years. For me, during those years, the journaling was sometimes cathartic, and other times it kept me spinning on the gerbil wheel. Predominantly, the journaling was cathartic, so I kept going. I was able to obviously see the difference (the catharsis or the gerbil wheel) between the two by how I was feeling and my outlook on life after that day’s entry. So, what I will attempt to do is show you the difference between the two though this article.
Normally, journaling is just a record of your thoughts in the moment or about the day, or an event. From my perspective, journaling in this fashion will do nothing other than keep you on the gerbil wheel. The only advantage that I have seen with this type of journaling is that you will sometimes feel better just by getting your thoughts and emotions out, and giving them a voice. I would be careful with this type of journaling though, because often it keeps the story alive and strong.
The idea about writing in a journal, from the perspective of awareness, is about getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Journaling in this fashion can give you a venue where you can literally observe your thought processes.
Think for just a minute about a person who is building something. The idea first happens in the mind, and usually the next step is to see the idea on paper. Many times, you are able to work out the details on paper even before you actually begin to build it. That concept is similar to the process of journaling in awareness. You are getting your thoughts out of your mind, and onto paper. Once it is on paper, you can look at it, analyze it (without judgment), and see much about yourself and the thought process you went through to get you there, what you did to stay there, and what you may do to move through it, etc.
From this perspective of journaling, you can see the thoughts you have around a situation, and you can see how your thoughts are creating the feelings that you are having. You could also write about potential futures relating to that topic. Sometimes I would write about more than one potential future. I would allow myself to write about the egotistical, reactionary side of me relating to the situation. As I would write it, I could see how I was keeping the story alive or even digging my hole deeper. This way, I could get a sneak preview on how I would feel and think about myself if I behaved in that egotistical, reactionary manner. Immediately, I would turn around, and write from the perspective of a response to the situation, rather than a reaction. That too, would give me a sneak preview on how that would possibly feel inside the body. Once that was done, usually it was a no brainer.
I wrote about the stuff that I considered being a problem and I wrote about the fun and happy times. I approached each (the good times and the bad times) from the same perspective as I mentioned in the above paragraph. I knew that it was just as significant for me to look my thoughts that were bringing about the happiness, as looking at the thoughts that were bringing about the funks. It was all about uncovering my mind, its processes and everything that entails, whether the situation was creating pleasantries or not.
I also spent much time in my journaling writing about my gratitude for things. It did not matter how small, how trivial, or how magnificent the reason for my gratitude; I was in gratitude and wrote about it. It seemed that as I spent time focusing on the things that I was grateful for, more things would happen that I was also grateful for.
Another thing that I would do, from the perspective of writing with awareness, is I would never end on a sour note. I would end in what I (in that moment) considered to be positive. Sometimes it may have been something that I was grateful for, and sometimes I would end with an affirmation that I had written for myself, relating to the situation at hand.
Neeraja, it is all about self awareness. I think that anything that supports that process is very much worth it. It boils down to this; if you are keeping the bullshit stirred up, then stop, but if you are using the bullshit as fertilizer to plant flowers with, it is totally worth it.

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2 Responses to “The Enlightened You” Journaling: Help or Hinder?

  1. Diana says:

    Really good article, Vedam! Many people seem to think that “journaling” is one thing, and that there is a right way to do it. As you point out, there are many different techniques that can be helpful, depending upon where you are at any given time, and what serves you best at that time. And all of them have value!

    Another technique that I use often is journaling to find the answer to a question (or the solution to a challenge). I start by writing a question at the top of the page. Then I start writing whatever comes to mind – no censorship – my stream of consciousness. And I keep writing – no matter where it goes. For the easy questions, my answer usually shows up on the first page. The tougher ones sometimes take 2 or 3 pages… but the answer – or at least the next step – is always there.

  2. Chetan says:

    Wow, what a line that was: “It boils down to this; if you are keeping the bullshit stirred up, then stop, but if you are using the bullshit as fertilizer to plant flowers with, it is totally worth it.”
    The whole response was wonderful, but that line just stood out such a wisdomatic truth. And can be used in many situations.
    Thanks Vedam

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