Insight TImer Feature

Blend Meditation + Journal Writing – Featured on Insight Timer

Thrilled to be featured right now on the Insight Timer blog. Check out my guest post about the benefits and how to of blending meditation with journal writing. Or is it journal writing with meditation? Read more to find out.

‘Mindful Journaling’ feature on Insight Timer.

 

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. 

dreams

Understanding Dreams in the Time of Coronavirus

Since social distancing due to coronavirus has started I find myself incredibly tired so early on some nights, completely crashed out on others, and sometimes I just toss and turn and toss and turn.

And man, regardless of the type of sleep, I’ve had some crazy dreams.

Dream Insight

I’ve since learned that this is common around the world. Sleep experts think there is a combination of forces at work. In some ways the daily stress is so much it’s making us sleep lighter or more soundly than usual. With dreams, sleeping so soundly encourages our brains to dream more vividly, while sleeping erratically causes us to wake up and recall them more easily.

According to an article by Psychology Today called, “How Dreams and Stories Handle Emotional Chaos” offers a note of reassurance, even if our dreaming is unsettling now:

…one of the reasons we dream is to make sense of what happens to us during the day, even the worst dreams we have are still plot-driven, still make some sort of emotional sense, and still clean some of the psychological litter box. They allow us to function better in our waking lives because they clear out emotional, spiritual, and intellectual detritus. 

In an LA Times article entitled “You’re not imagining it: We’re all having intense coronavirus dreams” Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., explains this process further:

When we observe something normal, our brains don’t need to “digest” it, he says. However, when something out of the ordinary happens — like a pandemic — our brains may process the experience through dreaming. That’s why “difficult-to-digest” experiences may give us dreams, Naiman explains.

Dream Work in Your Journal

Your journal can be an excellent tool to process these vivid dreams. Some can pull at you later during waking hours. Some tips:

  • Capture very basic facts immediately when you wake in the morning (or even very gently at night so you don’t further disrupt your sleep)
  • Keep a pen, notepad and even a small flashlight on your nightstand
  • Once you are fully awake take a moment to look at your quick sketch and recall your dream in more details; giving it a title can help
  • Remember that any dream you recall is a story from your subconscious; it can be a source of inspiration and release for your thinking brain too

Some options for processing your dreams:

  • Write your dream title (from above) in a circle and then brainstorm all the ideas, feelings, details, symbols that come. This is a journal technique called Clustering.
  • Write the name of a symbol or character from the dream inside the center circle and try a Clustering that way.
  • Close your eyes and take in a central character from the dream or one that repeats in your dreams and take a few deep breaths. Then write what’s called a Character Sketch in your journal. Describe everything about this character from your five senses. Be open to what more this character may have to share with you, what they represent.
  • Try an Artmaking activity with a collage of magazine clippings, drawings or doodles to represent what you experienced in a dream.

For me, one really vivid dream stand out. It was a giant monarch butterfly telling me to go back to sleep. She had to return and remind me two more times during that one fitful night of sleep.

The next morning in my journal I was able to connect her reminder to the ‘butterflies’ I’ve been feeling in my stomach during the day. I constantly have that nag in my gut like when my little guy played soccer goalie and I just closed my eyes until the penalty kicks were all done. I became aware of the transformation symbolism of the butterfly — it’s hard work to change from a caterpillar, but we’re working together to save lives in our community and that’s a beautiful thing.

 

Clustering, Character Sketch, Artmaking and Dreamwork are a sample of the techniques I teach in Journal to the Self workshops. Given the current situation, I’m running only online classes and finalizing a schedule. Please contact me as I may be able to open a class for you!

Even NASA has Journal Power!

If you’re like me, you’re hunkering down for safety, while your head and heart try to process what this pandemic really means on a day-to-day basis.

Astronaut Scott Kelly (the twin who was in space for a year) offered some inspired tips on what it takes to live effectively in isolation.

The NYTimes shared an article written by the astronaut. One of the unexpected findings was the importance of keeping a journal while in isolation.  You can read “I Spent a Year In Space, and I Have Tips on Isolation to Share” on the New York Times (you may need a guest log in to view the content).
His tip on journal writing is about mid-way into the article (bold added for emphasis):

NASA has been studying the effects of isolation on humans for decades, and one surprising finding they have made is the value of keeping a journal. Throughout my yearlong mission, I took the time to write about my experiences almost every day. If you find yourself just chronicling the days’ events (which, under the circumstances, might get repetitive) instead try describing what you are experiencing through your five senses or write about memories. Even if you don’t wind up writing a book based on your journal like I did, writing about your days will help put your experiences in perspective and let you look back later on what this unique time in history has meant.

Turns out you CAN be a rocket scientist. All you need is your journal!

Power for Your Journal

Captured Moment is a writing technique from Journal to the Self that empowers us to write memories from the five senses. It is just one of 18 techniques I teach. My next online class starts April 16th. Join me! 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 journey, especially in these uncertain times.

NASA Photo by Bill Ingalls.

Head Heart Gut Instinct

Inspired by February: Head, Heart, Gut Instinct

February is the shortest month, but packed with inspiration. I think of it as Head (Abraham Lincoln’s birthday), Heart (Valentine’s Day, of course) and Gut Instinct (taking a leap into Spring). My posts this month have reflected ways to use this inspiration in your journal.

As we enjoy today, the gift of one extra day, I’ll share some tools to tap the Head, Heart and Gut.

Tools for Head, Heart, Gut Instinct

Be sure to download my free Head, Heart, Gut worksheet. It’s the perfect prompt for the ‘Five Minute Sprint’ Journal technique. Great if you just have a few moments for your journal. And, it works great if you are feeling fuzzy or overwhelmed and wish to better understand what’s going on for you.

If you have more time, or wish to take your writing deeper you can listen to the Head, Heart, Gut audio meditation first on Insight Timer. The guided meditation will help you relax and focus with a short body scan and some relaxation breathing. (File should be live on my Insight Timer library this weekend.)

Enjoy this bonus day that calls us to trust our instincts and take a Leap!

All these journal techniques are designed to help you be your own personal growth coach and guide towards your own vision. Try these free tools and then let’s schedule a no obligation phone call to chat about how I can support your own change journey. Mark your calendar and plan to join me for my next online Journal to the Self® workshop which begins March 12. 

LOL in Your Journal

Reflective Journal writing is so simple to do — and brings amazing insights. I also love those times when my journal absolutely makes me laugh out loud. It’s often when I need a humor break the most, or as I’m making some sort of delightfully profound connection — blowing away an obstacle that had been weighing me down.

It’s really fun for me to share a recent humor example that I think will stay with me forever. I’m reading Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Rico. One of the activities is to use the Clustering technique as in Journal to the Self®with the prompt word

Afraid

I have to admit I wasn’t overwhelmed with the exercise. But I sat down and began by adding words about the big, bad, scary things related to being afraid. And then I added a protective lower ring I called the ‘safe zone’. And I finished with a core that wrapped around and highlighted the powerful parts of being afraid (like learning and experimenting). I felt done with words and sketched a few lines to contain and highlight the groupings.

I put my pen down, again feeling underwhelmed. But then I shifted the page just a touch to review my Cluster.

And I laughed out loud.

Journal to the Self Online

 

Spontaneous ‘Afraid’ sketch above. Brain diagram summarizes my recent reading. Notice how thinking, emotional and safety/instinct words line up. Even a stem! (Albeit wrong anatomically).

Here’s the sketch that emerged from my Cluster, as well as an image that represents the brain reading I’ve been doing lately about our reptile brain, why it’s programmed to think negatively (to protect us) and how people can use journal writing as a work around.

Darn it if I hadn’t just sketched a whole brain! When I finished laughing I did the next writing step, to describe what happened in the Cluster. In just mere moments I combined items related to my personal goals and business vision, readings and research I’ve been doing lately, and topics I’ve been discussing with a friend. Talk about the time savings, good laugh and next steps all packed into one journal write.

Journal to the Self Online

Hope you have fun watching for the humor in your own journal! Whether you make yourself laugh, or inspire yourself with how super-smart you can be, I hope you can join me soon for a Journal to the Self workshop. It’s a fun and amazing experience of personal discovery. My next online class begins March 12. Apply coupon code ‘Envision2020’ for a discount.

Brain image source: World of Lucid Dreaming

Using Meditation for Journal Writing

As a teacher, my goal is always to help students understand the wisdom within. It’s possible to tap this wisdom through the practice of journal writing. One amazing suggestion to empower your journal writing is by using an entrance meditation.

An entrance meditation is anything that works for you to quiet yourself before you begin writing. This process of settling the day-to-day busy-ness of our brain then engages the more intuitive, creative, symbol-oriented part of our brain to inspire our writing. For some a long walk, time in the garden or a warm bath is helpful. For others, a beautiful quote or lyric from a song works. Even a few deep breaths can be magical. For those who want to try a more focused quieting, yoga, listening to calming music or mindfulness meditation can be very effective.

Listening to a focused meditation designed specifically to inspire your journal writing can be particularly powerful. These meditations often use a visualization activity — taking your mind on a journey and guiding you to write based on the inspiration you glimpsed. Such visualizations can take you back or forward in time to see things from a different perspective, help you call forward the people present in your life today, or influencers from the past to inspire new lessons in your life, or use vivid imagery to help your brain see the bigger themes, symbols and insights we’re sometimes too busy to take in.

I’ve recently begun recording some of my students’ favorite journal meditations on a free app called Insight Timer. I hope you’ll join me there next time you need some special inspiration for your journal writing. You can even revisit this blog post as audio on Insight Timer.

Until then, give yourself at least three deep breaths each time you interact with your journal. You’ll see a difference in your writing!

 

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels.

Defeat Nagging Thoughts

Happens to all of us. Nagging thoughts that just won’t go away. The ones that wake us up. Or pop in at the stop light. Betcha didn’t know there was a term for this — it’s known as the Zeigarnik Effect. Basically, researchers have found that if you tell someone not to focus on a white bear, they end up focusing on white bears!

Journal-writing can be a powerful tool for working with these inevitable nagging thoughts, so they can become constructive instead of distracting. A bullet journal works great for managing, prioritizing and completing nagging to do’s.

But what about the nagging thoughts of tough conversations, unexpected goodbyes, creative sparks, or those vague ‘tip of my tongue’ instincts? Experience shows that reflective journal writing is a great way to define, explore, process these kinds of nagging thoughts. Telling yourself the truth about what’s nagging, to yourself first is a great way to understand, experiment, preview possible next steps.

Ready to be proactive next time nagging thoughts take over your brain? Try a free sample of my Head/Heart/Gut journal prompt.

And if you want to be proactive about how you shape the New Year for yourself, visit my Envision 2020 page for information on workshops and other resources. It’s your year to shine. And if you’re proactive about what the voice inside is saying you will make it a year of constructive thoughts!

 

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay