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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

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!

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.

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

Clustering: On ‘Thesaurus Day’

Happy birthday Peter Roget (inventor of the modern thesaurus)! Okay, I did have to look this up. But I love that it’s a thing.

In honor of Peter’s love of words, I’d invite you to try the Clustering technique in your journal today. Clustering is a quick and simple technique that tricks your left (thinking) brain into taking a break, so your right (scenery) brain can write. This is consistently one of my students’ favorite techniques and they always get delightfully surprising and useful insights, in a fast and fun way.

Try it out. As a prompt, use whatever word inspires you in this year 2020. Or try:

My Priorities 2020

Write your word in a circle in the center. Then branch, doodle and scribble all the thoughts that emerge. As some point, you’ll just feel done. When that happens, review the diagram and describe in words the story it tells. Do the branches relate? Or contradict? Are there lots of short branches? Or a few long ones? What are the arrows, underlines or notes in the margins telling you? Note whatever trends, themes, insights you notice.

Now go back and skim your doodle again, as well as the words you’ve written to describe it.  Write a short reflection: whatever observations, surprises or ideas you have. This might be an emotional feeling, a sense in your body, or the seed of an idea you want to follow up on.

Clustering 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, same page has info 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.