The column in this paper, “To Ponder” by Irene Hilsendager is full of great journal writing starters. Take a look at her list for October 2, 2020. One I think is highly evocative is “Where does a thought go when it is forgotten?”
Ponder this: “thought” during and after meditation. Write the question at the top of your page, meditate for 10 or more minutes and watch your thoughts, try not to engage in them, just let them arise and fall. How often were you caught up in following a thought into more thoughts and did you stay on topic or just wander around amongst all those thoughts? Or, were you able to bring yourself back to your meditation practice and cultivate an empty mind? And did you find an answer to this Zen Koan? Where does a thought go when it is forgotten?” (Many great Zen Koan books to research online)
Meditation is such a simple thing and yet it can seem very hard. It is not, the practice is to relax, set an intention to quiet your mind and commence with the practice of letting go of your thoughts as they arise, without getting entangled with their seductive call. You will find when your mind is peaceful the answers to many issues become clear.
There are various forms of meditative practice to clear your mind, from mindfulness meditation where you are watching your thoughts come and go, to walking meditation being fully present to your body movements. Chanting many religious or secular words can be invoked over and over to create a calm mind. Loving kindness is a meditation of invoking happiness and joy for yourself, then those close to you and then those whom you may disagree with and finally to all sentient beings on the planet. Creative visualization is putting yourself in a quiet imaginary place like a forest glen or by the ocean and watching your mind. Walking a labyrinth with a specific question in mind and contemplate possibilities is another form of walking meditation. These are only a few of the many ways to bring your mind into focus on the present moment.
The author Eckhart Tolle wrote a book on The Power of Now (1999, New World Library, Novato) teaching the readers the value of practicing being in the present moment, the now moment. He has written many books and has many audible books that are worth listening to and practicing. His book Stillness Speaks, (2010, New World Library edition), is a great way to grasp the power of stillness and present moment living.
A lot of research has been done on how meditation of all sorts aiming to quiet your mind from all of its distractions has valuable benefits in ones’ physical and emotional health., Journal writing after a meditation session often can capture the insights gained.
The idea is to learn to focus your mind on what you are doing and allowing distractions to fall away. Thoughts meandering all over the place, multi-tasking, ruminating on past or future demands, obsessing about a mistake you made, all can produce a scattered mind and lead to a lot of stress and anxiety.
Journal writing is a form of meditation. Setting an intention to write about one topic or matter of concern without diverging into unrelated rants is good practice in focusing your mind. Many times I will do a “repeating question” to get at the core of whatever is stressing me or needing a deeper answer from within. For instance, ask the question “What is right about holding on to my opinion about __________”(fill in the word). Write it down, then answer it without thinking much, just a phrase or a few words. Then say “ thank you” to yourself then write the repeating question again and write the first thing that comes to mind. And continue this way for about 20 minutes. If you can stay focused, you will go deeper into how you really feel and what is at play in holding on to opinions.
In my classes we often did the repeating question in pairs where one person asked the same question each time the other person answered. They would say thank you without expression and dispassionately ask the same question again. Then when the 20 minutes were up, the students would write their deeper understanding of the issue being questioned.
Journal writing and meditation is an important pairing to generate creativity, positive problem solving, healing of all manner of physical and emotional challenges. A quiet mind, a peaceful mind is a goal worth striving for. Many books and articles are available just by searching “meditation and journal writing” on the computer.
Write it Down