transition 2020

Shifting Into a New Year: 2020 End of Year Journaling

Pleased to have an article featured on Insight Timer Blog — the very important topic of processing the year that was 2020, and letting it go. Enjoy the article on their website, or below. 

2020: A Year With No Transitions

Laura Stukel explores the shifting states of transition and suggests three meditative journaling practices to let go of 2020.

In a normal year’s end we start to become wistful, reflecting upon and gathering up the memories, while also looking ahead for inspiration to direct the year about to unfold. But it goes without stating. 2020 was in no way a normal year.

While we cannot wait to move away from the year 2020, it’s easier said than done. When things are shifting, we can find ourselves churning – times of transition (no matter how big or how small) create a tension between letting go of what was and accepting what will be.

Understanding Transitions

Bridges-Transitions-Model-copyright

William Bridges created a three-part model to help explain the nature of transitions. The Bridges Transition Model refers to the shifty part in the middle as the ‘neutral zone’ – a no man’s land where we live both amidst what’s ending and also in what is beginning.

It is an unsettling place, yet the heart often needs to linger here for a long while.

In fact, what makes 2020 complicated is that there were basically no transitions. From mask-wearing routines, to school or work environments to social gatherings, we found ourselves launched rapidly into one new beginning after another with no time for the neutral zone.

So, saying goodbye to 2020 is a transition and requires letting go. But in this moment, we also have the baggage of thousands of little things we had to abandon without an option to let them go. We are in a neutral zone, held by the tiny (and of course the not so tiny) threads of all the emotions from the little challenges and frustrations, the grief of milestones and special events that were not celebrated, time lost, health changes, and loved ones who suffered as well as those who passed.

We may even be held by a tinge of unprocessed guilt for pride in new hobbies or skills or strengths discovered, because of the confusion of if or how to acknowledge, or let alone celebrate or feel gratitude for these.

Mindfulness Encourages Transition

So how can we mindfully, gently, carefully, guide ourselves in this shifting moment? With the promises of a vaccine, we are likely at the beginning of the end phase of this pandemic. In order to move into a new year, we must let go of the one past. How can we process what has transpired in a way that nudges us to move into a new chapter in the best possible way?

Journal writing has been scientifically proven to invoke mindfulness, release stress, encourage processing of thoughts and emotions, and create clarity when problem-solving is needed. Journal writing creates space to practice letting go; it is a tool for shortening the indefinite time in the neutral zone.

Bringing the practice of meditation into journal writing at this particular year-end, can create even more benefits.

In another piece, Laura explains the practice and benefits of mindful journaling in more detail.

Saying Goodbye To 2020, Mindfully, In Your Journal

Some ways to process, and begin the shift from 2020 into 2021 using meditation and journal-writing include the following.

Create A Historical Recap

Christina Baldwin was a teenager during the Cuban Missile Crisis, carefully recording — and protecting — her account for future readers should a bomb destroy life as she knew it. In creating a record for others, we create a pathway for our own understanding – and healing.

Read, reflect and focus on a quote from Baldwin (now a well-known author on journal writing), and then create your own recap of the year 2020 in a paragraph for each month. Write it as a gift for someone in the future; it also becomes a gift for yourself. Include what events stood out for you personally, locally, nationally and around the world. Reflect on this quote to get started:

“Spiritual empowerment is evidenced in our lives by our willingness to tell ourselves the truth, to listen to the truth when it’s told to us, and to dispense truth as lovingly as possible, when we feel compelled to talk from the heart.”  – Christina Baldwin, Life’s Companion

Doodle For Insights

The oval is the first shape children master in any culture around the world. Reflecting on a key word for a few moments and then adding it in an oval on the center of a journal page creates an amazing writing prompt. Beginning with a prompt in an oval sets you in an open, gentle, curious place of child-like wonder.

Try sitting with the phrase “Goodbye 2020” for a few moments as you take a few deep, slow breaths. When you are ready, write the phrase in an oval and then follow your pen. Branch, sketch and jot the words, symbols, lines or whatever comes. When you feel finished, review the page and now write in words what you see – patterns, insights, struggles, opportunities.

Write An Unsent Letter To The Year 2020

Begin by watching a movie of 2020 play out in your mind. Be present as the months pass. Be careful to watch, but not to label. Be gentle in allowing yourself to express the range of emotions. When you are ready, start a letter with the prompt – ‘Dear 2020, I need to tell you…’.

Unsent letters create clarity and closure. Add a ritual of destroying the letter if you feel so moved – it adds to another element, catharsis

Here’s To The New Beginning Ahead

We are in a shifting moment. Shortening days suddenly become lengthening days. We flip the page to a new calendar. A vaccine is becoming available. Each of these moments creates a new neutral zone.

The year 2020 will be in the past soon enough. How you let this year go will help you begin the new year in a place of mindfulness, openness and healing. We cannot rush the heart through the neutral zone. But being present to the process of letting go helps us take steps into a new beginning.

 

 

Water photo created by wirestock – www.freepik.com

abc7 holiday selfcare

Self-Care This Holiday Season — Yes, Please!

Self-care is more important than ever right now. Had the honor of talking with Leah Hope from ABC7 News last week about tips for self-care this holiday season.

From ABC7 News: How to self-care, improve mental health amid pandemic holiday

The video and transcript article includes some great advice on different options for self-care. Dr. Sonya Dinizulu made a great point, “It’s not meant to be commercialized or glamorized.” Remember that splurging on a spa da is not the same as self-care!

More Holiday Self-Care Tips

Here are some additional tips I shared with Leah:

  • Be present. Be realistic. This season is going to be hard. You will get through it. You will still have great moments to enjoy.
  • Keep things simple. We’re all multi-tasking from home. We’re all juggling different types of bad news. We’re all trying to figure out a way to salvage important holiday traditions. Make time for yourself everyday. Take a few deep breaths. Enjoy the warm light of a candle. Go for a short walk.
  • Release when you need to. Don’t hold it all in. This is a ‘novel’ or first-of-its-kind virus. We are all literally figuring things out as we go. Your journal is a great place to get things out of your head when you need to release. It can be very powerful to process things first on paper.
  • Don’t overdo it. As far as journal-writing, shorter bursts of writing have a ton of impact. A timer set for five minutes is perfect. Enough time to get thoughts on paper, but not so much time that your inner-grammar nerd starts striving for words that ‘sound right’ (this is just for you anyway, right?).
  • Connect. One of the hardest aspects of the pandemic is how isolating the experience is. Connect by phone or video or texts as often as you can. But you can connect in your journal too. Just writing about a tradition or a person you care about brings along that important feeling of being connected with others.
  • Give yourself permission to feel joy. For more about the Joy Jot that I shared with Leah, please visit my blog. Or you can hear an audio version on Insight Timer.

Gather Your Friends – New Alternatives for Self-Care this Holiday Season

Friends Focus Future

What we could all use right now is more time to connect with friends. If you are looking for a fun option for self-care, in the company of your friends, please join me for a New Year workshop. I have all the tools to make it easy for you and up to 12 friends to connect in a private, virtual meeting space. You can wave goodbye to 2020 together, and provide some mutual support and encouragement as we look forward more than ever to a brand new year! You can read all about these wonderful sessions on the ‘Workshops’ page of my website.

2020 has been rough. But there’s better times ahead. You’ve got this! Best, Laura

 

 

 

 

Giving Mindset Journal

Create a Giving Mindset: The Power of Your Journal This Holiday Season

I’m thrilled to be featured once again on the Insight Timer Blog with a special article about mindfulness this holiday season.

Copy below or click to on their website.

Create a Giving Mindset: The Power of Your Journal This Holiday Season

The holiday season approaches, and it will be one like no other. Amidst a global pandemic many connections and traditions we look forward to may be a bit different this year. While not a replacement, the blended practices of meditation and journal-writing can be a beautiful alternative for this moment. And perhaps some can inspire new traditions for you going forward.

It’s no coincidence that many of the world’s major religions have traditions of connection, and of light, in what is the darkest part of the year in the northern hemisphere. And lack of connection is one of the most challenging sides of living through this pandemic. This holiday season lands at a time some believe may be in the ‘third-quarter phenomenon’ – a trend that has been noted by those that study experiences of extended isolation, such as living on the International Space Station or at the research campus on Antarctica. No matter the overall timeline of the isolation, around two-thirds to three-fourths of the way through, moods and morale hit a low-point.

With the caution of COVID-19 numbers hitting new records in many parts of the world, but the promising news of vaccine rollouts seeming imminent, it could very well be that the holiday season and the lows of the ‘third-quarter’ of the pandemic will overlap.

So what are some new ways for right now we can use to connect to traditions and others, create a giving mindset for ourselves, and celebrate what is a season of light in so many cultures? The combined practices of meditation and mindful journal-writing gives us a pathway.

Mindful Journaling In The Holiday Season

The practice of meditative and mindful journaling is a simple three-step process:

Begin — Be present: take some deep breaths, listen to an audio journal prompt, take a walk. Let your writing prompt find you.

Write – Shorter is better! 5-10 minutes is just enough.

Reflect – Take a few deep breaths, read and be present to what you have just written. What surprises or insights stand out? Now write yourself one last line of reflection.

You can learn more about reflection writing in the talk below:

Reflective Writing In Your Journal, by Laura Stukel

 

Ideas to combine meditation and mindful journal-writing in this holiday season:

Linger in a few moments of beautiful candlelight

Many different traditions draw from light in the darkness. Enjoy some deep breaths as you feel your body relax. Sit and be present to the stillness. When you are ready, begin to write, using this meditative beginning and then following your pen wherever your writing takes you.

You might want to try this candle breathing meditation by Sara Rabinovitch, Ph.D.

Use images or wording from cards given or received as a springboard into writing

Extend the tradition and the exchange by being present to any inspiration. Reflect on a selected card for a moment and take a few relaxing breaths. When you are ready, use a few words from the card as a starter and then follow your pen.

Connect in a deep way, without limitations of time or space

A Character Sketch journal write is a description of someone dear, using a moment of meditation to be together in your mind (anyone special – perhaps even someone who has passed on). Close your eyes and picture your dear one approaching, then standing near. Finally, be present with them, using all of your five senses. When you are ready, describe your dear one in your journal. To really experience a moment of a giving mindset, you may choose to conclude your session by writing a special holiday card to this person, and mailing or delivering it symbolically to a loved one passed.

Capture special holiday moments

Similar to the technique above, a Captured Moment journal write begins with quiet meditation, and an observation in your mind, using all five senses. Seasonal scents or essential oils add inspiration. To try, simply sit in quiet with your eyes closed, and picture a blank, white screen in front of you. Allow yourself to call forward holiday memories from the past, watching them pass like a movie, or as if flipping through a photo album. Then let one be fully present to you, and enjoy that moment again using all five senses. When you are ready, write, describing this holiday moment in time as if you are enjoying it again in slow motion.

Embrace the symbols, inspiration and perspective of holiday traditions

From images of the sun on the Winter Solstice, to the story of the oil lasting for eight nights, to the journey of the three wise men, we have rich connections to culture, history, traditions and nature in this time of year. Secular and pop culture adds more layers. Using music, stories, family heirlooms, religious texts, or similar inspiration, find perspective and in your journal. Travel space and time as you need to. Write as another person if it suits you. Quietly center yourself amidst your inspiration, and then write.

For example, imagine yourself being among the peoples who placed the columns at Stonehenge, then write as that person observing the season present. Or maybe enjoy the classic song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and then write from the perspective of Bing Crosby himself, with whatever wisdom he may be able to impart into your journal. Or, Ebenezer Scroorge perhaps? Take in bubbe’s latke recipe, noting the careful way she described the steps, and then write from her perspective as if she was experiencing the present moment in time. You get the idea.

Dialogue with a Grandparent – Meditation for Journal Writing by Laura Stukel

 

Create a Mindset of Giving

Yes, this holiday season will be unlike any we have experienced before. And yes, there are challenges. Remember to take time to be present, and to create new, mindful ways to connect with traditions and loved ones during this season. Blending the practices of meditation and journal-writing will allow us to experience holiday traditions in new, creative and heart-filling ways.

 

December Inspiration

December Inspiration

I’ve always been fascinated that so many of the world’s religions honor a festival of light around the darkest time of year in the Northern Hemisphere. This year, this season feels especially dark. But there’s always a light if we look! 

For the month ahead I invite you to find ways to celebrate the light. The challenges of 2020 will be in the rearview mirror soon enough. Stay patient, stay safe, and don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Join me for journal inspiration all month long!

Dec 2 / Wednesday Wellness Writing (writing by candle light) – free drop in*   
Dec 9 / Wednesday Wellness Writing (Character Sketch writing) – free drop in*   
Dec 16 / Wednesday Wellness Writing – free drop in* 
Dec 23 / Wednesday Wellness Writing (writing an Unsent Letter) – free drop in* 
Dec 30 / Wednesday Wellness Writing (writing a Captured Moment) – free drop in* 

Celebrating Our Story Changers

Aug 16th (8/16) is what I call Story Changers Day. A day to honor ancestors known, unknown or hidden. We all come from 8️⃣ great grandparents, 1️⃣6️⃣ great greats, 3️⃣2️⃣ great great greats …
Some of their stories we know — and appreciate. Some we know, and let’s say, we’ve learned from. Others we have a sense of based on assumptions or gut instincts.
Nonetheless, for the average person ~80-100 years back we’re connected to 1️⃣6️⃣ amazing people who lived so that we could be here today.
In those 8️⃣ or 1️⃣6️⃣ or even 3️⃣2️⃣ people you have your ‘Story Changers’. People who faced poverty, or war, or slavery, or discrimination and thru determination, or luck, or hope beyond hope you live — with a tiny bit of their DNA inside you!

Celebrating & Honoring Story Changers

If you have a moment , write a note of thanks to one of these folks, or sit and be present to any that might call to you.
Each and everyone of us has their magic inside!
Coping COVID-19

Coping with COVID-19 – Tools from our Journals

In the past four weeks I’ve worked with over 45 students in online journaling workshops as each looked for ways to process the impact of the COVID-19 crisis individually and as a learning community. Nearly 75% of the way complete, it’s fascinating what we’ve shared together. And the lessons I’ve learned. My big takeaway comes down to four coping categories, and eight simple journal techniques.

As groups, we’re using journaling as a means to cope with this crisis. But the categories apply no matter how you approach self-care. The important thing is to do what feels right for you — and do something every day, just don’t overdo it.

Key Lessons from our Journals

From rocket scientists to sleep experts I’ve been chronicling the benefits to journaling, especially right now, here on my blog. I’ve also been keeping tabs on the leading thinking coming out of places like the Mayo Clinic and the Center for Disease Control. But it’s my students who had the wisest, most simple wisdom to share from their examples:

Be Present. Present to Emotions, Uncertainty, Gratitude.

Routine. Do something basic every day to Boost Immunity, Sleep Consistently, Journal.

Release. It’s hard enough to take in so much change and so much bad news at once. Let alone to process it. Release in the way that feels right to you through things like Hobbies, Books/Music, Moments of joy.

Connect. At this time of separation we need as many ways to connect as still possible. Focus on Loved Ones, Helping Others, Nature, Faith.

And through their own courage to learn new ways to connect with their journals right now, these students have reminded me of the most simple and effective tools for this moment.

Journal Tools in the Time of COVID-19

Based what I’ve observed with my students these past few weeks, the best approach is to try something simple, with the intent of addressing at least one of the four categories every day. (Colored fonts below indicate a link to additional resources on most techniques.)

Be Present:

  • 5 Minute Sprints – Set a timer for 5, add “What’s going on?…” as your prompt. Write.
  • Reflection Writing – Whatever you end up writing, reread it (aloud if you want to), take a breath, write for one more minute about whatever comes to you. You are your own best coach and advocate.
  • Stream of Consciousness – Take a long walk, focus on your breathing for 3 minutes or daydream for 5. Then open your journal. Write.

Routine:

  • Topics du Jour – Find seven topics that mean the most to you right now. Select one topic per day of the week and assign each to its own page in your journal. Do one quick write on each day’s topic. Repeat each week. For example: Mondays – ‘Managing Stress’, Tuesdays – ‘Healthy Habits’, Wednesday – ‘My Kiddos’, etc.

Release:

  • Clustering – Write a focus word in the center of a journal page and circle it. It could be an emotion you wish to process, a word that represents something that brings you joy, or inspires you. Take a few deep breaths as you consider your word. Then doodle and sketch with branches with whatever comes to mind. When you finish, describe your doodle in words.
  • Dreams – Many of us have been dreaming more often, and we’re remembering more of our dreams, and they are more vivid right now. Dreams are the subconscious mind’s way to process what happens during our day. A journal is a beneficial way to complete that processing.

Connect:

  • Character Sketch – Think of one special person in your life and observe fully in your mind what they mean to you emotionally, as a physical presence, the lessons they have for you, any inspiration or memories. Sit and be present with them for a few moments. Then use your journal to record a vivid description. When you are done, pick up the phone, send a card, or hop on a Zoom call. Share the highlights of your write, or just enjoy the interaction. If this loved one is no longer with us or inaccessible right now, find a ritual to share the highlights — perhaps whisper them to the first star you see in the evening sky.
  • Captured Moment – Let a joyful moment come to mind and then experience it again in your mind using all five senses. Linger for a moment. Then record it in your journal.

Remember the Overall Wisdom

I hope this framework for thinking about coping and self-care is helpful in this moment. Remember to keep it simple, but do something to support yourself each day. Being present, finding routine, releasing and connecting are powerful tools whether your work on them through your journal or in other ways.

 

All of these techniques are presented in the Journal to the Self workshops I teach. Given the current situation, I’m running only online classes right now and finalizing a schedule. Please contact me as I may be able to open a class for you!

 

Photo by Lisa Fotios, Pexels. 

Pi Day

‘Pi’ Chart Wisdom in Your Journal!

My in-laws are a family of math people, and bakers. So we never miss out on celebrating Pi Day. (Our favorite is a cookie-cake with the Pi symbol on the middle — a circle, of course. We waited so that we ate it at exactly 3.14 1:59!)

A great Pi-related journal prompt is the List of 100. This is great if you want to generate big ideas, and tap your intuition in the process. Start with a prompt, such as:

100 things I am grateful for…

100 things I’m feeling stressed about…

100 marketing ideas…

100 ways I can help others…

100 lessons I have learned…

100 things to delegate…

You get the idea! Pick a topic and get ready to write.

Here are a few pointers: Write very quickly. Number as you go. Repeat, repeat, repeat is ok! If you get stuck, just write ‘stuck’ until the next thing comes.

Now comes the Pi/Pie Chart part — reread your list. Look for patterns, themes and insights. Assign items to categories, count and make a pie chart with the results.

Don’t forget to write a reflection of the overall process or outcomes to wrap it up (link is to an audio file, you might have to download the free app first). Every List of 100 is different. Sometimes you get big insights while writing the list (especially somewhere between items 66-100 on the list), sometimes while sorting or doing a pie chart, and sometimes while reflecting on the overall activity.

Join me for Journal to the Self

List of 100 is just one of 18 amazing techniques I teach during Journal to the Self workshops. Learn more on the Workshops page (online and in-person session). Or, if you prefer to sample first, try a free technique, or let’s schedule a no obligation phone call to chat about how I can support your own change journey.

Topics du Jour – Connecting Your Priorities

Topics du Jour is one of my favorite journal techniques because it’s so clever, simple and effective. The idea is easy – brainstorm the top 30 words that mean the most to you. Represent your own priories with names of people in your life, values or skills, your favorite activities or hobbies, etc! Then assign each to a number.

Now you are ready for Topics du Jour in your journal. Write about each topic on that date of the month. Let’s say your daugther was born on the 7th. So you assign her name to #7 and write about her on 7th of each month. Want to do a monthly check in about your finances? Maybe assign it to #15 since Tax Day falls on the 15th of April.

Check out this short webinar to learn more and set up your own Topics du Jour practice. And, learn why I write about ‘synchronicity’ on the 13th of each month!

 

 

 

Topics du Jour is just one of 18 techniques I teach during my Journal to the Self workshops. Learn more on the Workshops page, download a free sample first, or schedule a no obligation phone call to chat about how I can support your own change journey.

Prompting Yourself to ‘Spring Forward’

We’ve gained an hour of sunlight (but I do miss that hour of sleep!). The earth still appears to be sleeping, but change is afoot.

In your journal this is great inspiration. Try a Springboard or a Clustering write.

Spring forward…

As a Springboard write, use the words as your prompt and follow your writing.

As a Clustering write, place the words in the center of a page and circle them. Then branch and sketch as it suits you.

Write for five minutes. When you are done, reread your writing and jot down a few follow notes based on what you notice, observe in your body or any to do’s that may be popping out to you.

Use Your Journal to Spring Forward, Farther!

Springboard and Clustering are just two of 18 amazing techniques I teach during Journal to the Self workshops. Learn more on the Workshops page (online and in-person session). Or, if you prefer to sample first, try a free technique, or let’s schedule a no obligation phone call to chat about how I can support your own change journey.