“Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret.” This is what first springs to mind whenever I think of journaling (the grown up mindful version of writing a diary – thanks Judy Blume).
I remember when I was a teenager I sang to my Boyzone posters, drew on heavy black eyeliner and practised dance routines to Steps (still know a couple. I am not ashamed). What I didn’t do as I ‘came of age’ was keep a diary. I had one friend who did, well one friend who admitted she did, and I recall snottily thinking how indulgent, how narcissistic. I mean how interesting can one find themselves?
Fast forward 17 years later and I’m packing up The Beast (my beloved backpack) and heading to Heathrow Airport for the adventure of my life. Packed in there amongst my essentials (door stop alarm (never used), mammoth first aid kit (never used, despite being in a road traffic accident), and my body weight in insect repellent (used, smothered, basted and still munched) was a ‘Journal’. Blank pages. Ready to fill.
Everyone who had been ‘backpacking’ in their gap yah at the appropriate time to travel and find themselves (or find the cheapest local beer) recommended taking a journal so I could document my trip and therefore save moments and memories forever. They were right. My Journal quickly became my most treasured possession, well, after the insect repellent.
I started my trip at Anand Prakash Ashram (Rishikesh, India) where unknown to me I would return three months later to complete my Yoga Teacher Training qualification. You can visit the Ashram independently and stay there in a shared room, three meals a day, two yoga classes per day for £8 a day. It’s quiet, basic, limited wifi, and the food is amazing – it’s all sattvic – yogic clean, pure and vegetarian and delicious.
The first entry in my diary was on Thursday 11/06/2015:
“Arrived at Ashram – taxi was late (Indian time) but everyone at Dehra Dun airport was pleasant and very helpful. The Ashram itself is very basic but not uncomfortable. It’s 3pm and stinking hot though – not sure how doing yoga in this heat is going to work out. The thought of being here until 28/06/2015 is a little overwhelming but we shall see how it goes…. I am trying to reassure myself that the whole point of this trip is to be outside of my comfort zone and that handling this will give me more perspective generally.”
Yes, I know thrilling. And I’m sure to win literary awards with such gripping and creative prose. This entry makes me laugh though (which was and is the point) as the Ashram was a palace compared to some of the dumps I later stayed in!
I returned to the Ashram in late September for Yoga Teacher Training. During the four week course, we were encouraged to journal and in one philosophy class we had to sit and meditate on the ‘longing of the heart’ – Yoga Sutra 1.39 (To find a calm and still mind by meditating on the longing of the heart) and then journal our experience of that meditation. My Journal informs me that it was a short meditation and I used the words “longing of the heart” as a mantra to try and still my mind but then I got distracted by contemplating why I didn’t fancy the nice boys in my life failing to find an answer, to both.
Each night I would try and keep my own journaling up – if only to document the exhaustion and rollercoaster ride of each day of training. Sometimes I would read back to see where I was this time last month, or week and when I re-read my Journal a few days later I stumbled across this passage: “I’m feeling very blessed to have had this time already. I really am changing for the better and slowing down and I really do feel a longing to be back with my family.”
I had answered the question in my own time, subconsciously or unconsciously perhaps.
Journaling is form of contemplation, of meditation, of yoga. It absorbs your focus and gives you time to explore your intuition on a deeper level, to expel past frustrations and worries and it helps you become aware of your thoughts. It can help reduce stress by providing you with an outlet and it can boost your own creativity, just for you, to keep it flowing, which is all that matters.
So whilst I don’t keep a day to day Journal now I am back in Blighty, I do keep writing blogs like this primarily for my enjoyment and then for yours (hopefully). I encourage you to write. But perhaps not to God asking for bigger boobs. Like Margaret.