Meditation and Journaling – A comparative…

I finally have gotten around to reading a book I have had for 5? Yrs…’Eat, Pray, Love’ !

I was flying out the door to go on a ‘short’ business trip, and scanned my bookshelf; looking for something I wouldn’t mind reading again.  Being that my bookshelf is stocked with books of which 90% have been read, and 10%…still waiting for my return, I figured it would be easier to find one I had already read, than the alternative. This one popped out at me and I grabbed it. Not to get off topic, (clearly, I am about to) but in this very moment I type, I am finally getting the answer to a troubling question that came up on my trip. You see, I was to leave SFO at 6am and arrive in New Orleans 10:45am…short quick trip, right? Well, as never has before happened, I got to board a total of 5 planes, two of which I got to ‘un-board’ due to mechanical concerns. The short day turned into a 16-hour ordeal, and I turned into a pile of tears by day’s end. So the question from this crazy trip, that finally produced an answer in this moment – why did this turn into such a nightmare? Why two mechanical issues, with one having a 5-hr wait time for repairs????? ‘So that you may read this beautiful, moving…very moving book, Sheri.’ For 5yrs I have postponed for many a reasons…and this week, I was given PLENTY of time to get to it finally!

Back on topic – After delving deeply into this gem of a ‘transportational’ book,  I am realizing that there could easily be made the correlations – so similar in nature, between meditating and journaling. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the book, gave gut-wrenching, honest, vulnerable account of her challenges in meditating. Sitting still for more than a few minutes before experiencing discomfort physically in her body. The dialogue she would have in her mind…which would distract her…. the usual stuff, right?! She likely might be the first to admit, that meditation challenges are not unique to her. I for one had spent a good 25 yrs avoiding my interest and curiosity to meditate, due to the reality that each time I tried…I just didn’t ‘get it’. I was fascinated with the possibilities and claim of the benefits of journaling  meditating (oh my gosh…I swear, I just read back over this and realized that I ACTUALLY typed ‘journaling’ rather than the word meditating, which was my intended word – Freudian…ya think?). Yet each time I ‘tried’…I felt like I ‘failed’. I just couldn’t do it. Couldn’t stay still. Couldn’t focus on not thinking and mind-talking throughout the entire time. Couldn’t last for more than a few…very few, minutes.  I would leave the time, feeling more frustrated than (satisfied?)… I remember a specific conversation I had with a friend whom I knew meditated somewhat regularly. ‘Show me how you do it! You sit and meditate, and I want to watch you…so I can understand what I am not ‘getting’…’ Needless to say, this didn’t work. I think it was in 2006 when I finally came to understand something about meditating, through the help of Pema Chodron in her book, ‘When Things Fall Apart – Heart Advice for Difficult Times’.  First off, let me say that if you are not familiar with her books, teachings and just her…you really must investigate. She is whom I name as my favorite author, whenever asked. 

Sidetracked, again…. Pema scatters throughout her books, not only her own vulnerabilities of ‘meditation challenges’, but the suggestion of showing compassion on yourself and your time in meditation. It seems that Elizabeth Gilbert also found this to be a suggestion that finally gave way to a different ‘understanding’ shall we say, of ‘how-to’ meditate. To give and show ourselves mercy and compassion toward something we just can’t cross over to the other side of accomplishing – this has been key for me, in my meditation practice. Where I used to shake my finger at not waking early and starting my day with time for meditation, I now allow that my time for meditating…it can happen on a bus, crowded with strangers. Where I used to negative self-talk, at my inability to ‘last’ for more than a ten minute stint…I now gratefully welcome 2 minute meditation opportunities, and say thank you to myself and the universe for providing that traffic jam, that gave way to such a rich moment. Where I used to groan at the ‘monkey mind’ while meditating, I now watch with a curious observer position, and say to that monkey mind, ‘wow…that is interesting, thank you for the opportunity to be let in on that conversation…now it is time to return to the silence and breath, and stillness of mind…’. My monkey seems to be okay with this re-direction, and I become blessed with the opportunity of calmness, grounded-ness, ‘letting-go ness’….and the much more beautiful day that meditating produces.

Somehow, it seems that human nature responds more favorably to ‘giving in to how it is’ rather than fighting to have it be ‘how it should be’, with a reward of  success. When we quit struggling for it to ‘look like this’, we oddly learn to love and accept it just as it is…which I generally find, is better than I ever could have imagined. Some would say, the struggle, when welcomed…it loses its power over us. 

Journaling can be challenging. I love to journal, I am ‘fed’ if you will, by the written word and wisdom I apparently carry within, that never would come without journaling.  Yet I promise you, many a day finds me beginning to scold, ‘Sheri…you haven’t journaled for a couple of days, you need to get on it’. I am sure you can relate when I tell you that I have times where I cross out, erase and edit….and then remind myself that there is no ‘right’ word, ‘right’ sentence, ‘right’ thought. It just is. And the more often I just write, reserving judgment, the more often I reap the benefit. When I let go of the expectation of perfect time to journal, perfect way to journal, necessary results; when I give compassion and concession for letting my journaling practice be just exactly what it is – this is when I find success.

May you find compassion on yourself and on your journaling practice, enough to finally let it be, just exactly as it is!!!

In humble gratitude,

Sheri

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