Wandering, Meandering, and Yet…

Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.” Thomas Merton

Ever have one of those days—or weeks or month or years—where you just can’t seem to get where you think you want to go? Instead, you wander and meander and backtrack and….finally end up exhausted and frustrated. Maybe you even choose to quit. Yet, later on, you come to see that this was the best route to get where you really wanted to go, even if way back in the beginning you didn’t know you wanted to go there.

When I look back over my life, never in a million years could I have predicted I would come to this good place where I am now. Married to the love of my life after being divorced for more than twenty years. Leaving corporate life in 1993 to be a freelance writer (and actually succeeding at that for about two decades!). Then in my late 50s finding my calling in becoming a certified journal facilitator, originally inspired by the experience of caring for my husband after his brain injury. Who woulda thunk? Not me.

Life is like that, as you already know. The weirdest, seemingly most inconvenient, painful, or unexpected experience can send us down a whole new path, which can lead to places we never imagined. I’m grateful for everything that has brought me to this point, maybe even more for the painful than the pleasant ones because they taught me more.

These past few months have been particularly vexing. I spent most of 2017 working to get a new journaling program off the ground, one I loved and was excited about. For whatever reason, it didn’t work, and finally, I had to grieve it and let it go. Then, I wasn’t sure what my new focus might be. Like the river in the photo above, I felt like I was wandering aimlessly in a bleak landscape.

Fortunately, I have been through this kind of situation before and trusted that somehow the answer would reveal itself. I journaled and pondered, contemplated and journaled some more. Talked with wise friends, who were very patient with me.

And slowly the answer appeared. I now have a new focus for my journaling work that makes me happy and enthusiastic once again. I’m not ready to reveal it yet but will soon. (Don’t you love suspense?)

The Thomas Merton quote above has long been one of my favorites. I can go for long stretches and forget its wisdom. But every time I come back to it, it restores me and encourages me to embrace my wandering, knowing that I will eventually come home.

For your journal:

Write about a time when you believed you were headed to a certain destination, only to be (apparently) thrown off course by Life, but you later discovered it offered you a whole new landscape to explore. What were the circumstances? What did they mean to you? How did your life change as a result?

What is a quotation that inspires or energizes you in some way? Copy it into your journal and describe how it makes you feel, why it resonates with you, times it has helped you. (I have a tiny journal into which I only copy short quotations that are meaningful to me. It is a valuable resource when I need to be uplifted or inspired.)

Find a photo that symbolizes the way you feel. What metaphor does it evoke in you? What emotion does it produce? Why is it such a good symbol at that moment? Write about it with as much sensory detail as you can, even wax poetic if you like.

Mysterious Messages and Meanings

Movement outside my large home-office window caught my eye: a gorgeous hawk (a Cooper’s, perhaps) had flown in to sit on the utility line directly in my line of sight. With its back to me, tail occasionally flicking for balance, it sat for several minutes, regally surveying its environment. I watched it with awe and gratitude. Then it lifted up and flew to another nearby spot on the line, where it rested again. Finally, as I craned my neck to watch, it spread its powerful wings and flew off out of sight.

I had seen hawks in our neighborhood but never before had one come so close or stayed so long. As a believer in synchronicities and messages from the Universe, I immediately pulled out my Medicine Cards book to investigate what Hawk’s message might be. When it flew in, I was writing my previous blog post, Brains and Change, and feeling a stir of excitement and enthusiasm again after a time of feeling scattered and unsure about some aspects of my work. Hawk’s appearance at that moment felt significant and validating.

The book explained that Hawk is a messenger that teaches me to be observant and watch my surroundings, even for the obvious, because “life is sending you signals.” The magic of life was coming to me, it said, which could “imbue (me) with the power to overcome a currently stressful or difficult situation.” Pay attention! says Hawk, for I am “only as powerful as (my) capacity to perceive, receive, and use (my) abilities.” Hawk medicine is “a totem that is filled with responsibility, because Hawk people see the overall view….Hawk medicine people are aware of omens, messages from the spirit…” therefore I should “be aware of the signals in (my) life—so notice and receive them.”

Since that day, several strong intuitions have come to me—messages I could not ignore. The first was a message so clear it was as if someone had spoken it directly into my ear. It told me to take my cell phone downstairs with me when I went to work out—something I never do. But I did as ordered and within minutes, a call arrived from someone I dearly love who was in the midst of a crisis.

Another message was even more crucial. My mother was in hospice, and my husband and I were going to leave on Tuesday morning to see her. But then I knew that we had to go on Monday. We were able to see her one last time that afternoon; Mom died the next morning before we normally would have left for the six-hour trip.

We returned home on Wednesday, and the next morning I had a brief but distinct dream in which Mom and I were talking on a phone, and in a faint but clear voice, she told me she was okay and not to worry, creating a feeling of deep peace within me. Her voice faded, and then as I looked up, there sat a magnificent brown- and black-feathered hawk, looking right into my eyes.

As I write about these intuitive events, and others, in my journal, I continue to discover more information and am amazed by what I can learn if only I pay attention.

What signs or synchronicities have come to you? What meanings have you given to them? How do you allow them to play out in your Living, Breathing Story?

Brains and Change

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Max Planck

Anger, hatred, and intolerance really are only stories we tell ourselves, as are compassion, love, and inclusion. With so much of the former flying around today, it pays to understand something about neuroplasticity, or the capacity of our brains to change over a lifetime. The more we do something, including having the same thoughts and performing the same actions, the more our brains physically conform to them, so that we keep thoughtlessly keep repeating them, regardless of whether they benefit us or harm us. Even more crucial, being exposed to the same things over and over does the same:

“…the external world comes to be represented within our brains and actually forms our physical brain’s synaptic (nerve) connections so that we have a model or mirror of the external world. As inside, so outside. As above, so below. This happens through our internalization of the stories that are being told around us.” (Lewis Mehl-Madrona, PhD, in Healing the Mind Through the Power of Stories.)

Thus, the more we hate and are exposed to hate, the more our brains lead us to hate. The more we love and are exposed to love, the more our brains lead us to love. All the vitriol we are now exposed to on a daily basis is changing us because of this process of internalization—but we can make it a positive change if we make a conscious effort to change our stories about what is happening in the world and within each one of us. Focus on love, compassion, and inclusion instead. Focus on what you love and would love to see happen instead of being overly and unendingly angry about what seems to be happening (righteous anger in the face of injustice is good and often necessary, but channel it into more positive emotions and actions instead). Work for positive change in ways that satisfy you and make you feel good, instead of hating and fighting against the people and policies you don’t like. You can tell which path you are on by the way your actions and thoughts make you feel inside.

One person at a time, we can restore ourselves and so create a better story for everyone. Yes, it’s hard but yes, we can.

In your journal:
Write about a positive change you would like to see in the world and how you might help it come about in positive, loving, compassionate ways. This does not have to be an earthshaking, grand, or grandiose thing. Remember that, often, the best thing we can do to promote positive change is to do the smaller things we can do within our own sphere of influence. What can you do in your own family and circle of acquaintances to make their world a better place?

What does having a body mean to you?

Sounds like a silly question, I know. But think about it. Your answer determines how you live in that body, which determines a great deal of how you experience reality.

Is your body simply the mechanism that carries your head around, or is it, as Mary Oliver wrote, a “soft animal…that loves what it loves”? Is it more of a prison or more of a sacred space? A done deal or an evolving answer? Merely a lump of conscious meat or something more mysterious, even miraculous? Separate from everything else or inextricably joined with the entire whole of creation?

I’ve been thinking about this question while working on a journaling program about how we embody our stories (our thoughts about our experiences). Because that is what we do: Through the vehicle of our body, we live out the thoughts that create our experience of reality. We cannot pull the mind and the body apart, like Legos; instead, they are one, a whole entity together. In a process so deeply complex we likely will never fully understand it, our bodymind uses thoughts and physiological responses to create our experience of reality.

Two examples of how we embody stories:

Say you read a post on Facebook. The words in themselves have no meaning except that which you assign to them—the story you make out of them. And these words anger the bejesus out of you! Immediately, thanks to those thoughts, your muscles tense, your stomach hurts, your blood pressure and pulse zoom skyward. Your body pours out cortisol and adrenaline, which cause damage when you produce too much over time. Anger also compromises neurons in the brain, which, again, is not healthy over time. You feel separate and divided from other people. If you respond in anger to the post, that only keeps your internal cycle going and likely escalates the situation—round and round you go! But not in a good way.

Now say you see another post. Only not only do you agree with this one, it makes you happy. Your internal story about this post is positive. Now your body feels lighter. Your blood pressure and pulse drop into or stay at healthy levels. Your brain produces dopamine, oxytocin, endorphin, serotonin, and other biochemicals that produce feelings of happiness and help you stay calmer and healthier. You feel more connected to others and, at the moment, see the world in a better light.

Either way, all of this happens because of your thoughts—which only have meaning because of the stories you create with them. Which thoughts would you rather have? Which effects would you rather have produced in your body?

(Now, this does not mean you can’t ever be angry or that you need to ignore or stuff your anger. Anger is a useful and necessary emotion, as are all emotions. Just be aware of what it can do to you, and learn how to manage it better.)

If you want to explore the stories you embody, here’s an exercise in contrast you can try, with your journal or without:

Recall a time you had an intense negative reaction to something you read or saw. Or, even better, wait until you experience such a reaction and have your journal handy. (Perhaps it is a political ad or post, which often elicit explosive reactions these days.) As best you can, write about the story you create about this thing: What are your thoughts about it? Why is your reaction so negative? And what reactions are happening in your body at this time? Pay close attention and write them down too.

Then, still sitting with your journal, simply change your thoughts. It likely will take a few minutes. Choose something that makes you feel happy, even joyous, or something that soothes you. It can be a memory or something you imagine, but let yourself feel it deeply. Or you can give yourself a hug—wrap your arms around yourself, or tenderly stroke your arm or your face. (This produces oxytocin and reduces cortisol. http://self-compassion.org/the-chemicals-of-care-how-self-compassion-manifests-in-our-bodies/) You can add slow, deep breathing to this. Once again, write about this experience with as much detail as you can.

As you do this exercise, don’t judge or criticize yourself for either position. This is simply meant to demonstrate how thoughts create our experience of reality. And how we change our Living, Breathing Story by changing our thoughts.

Write Your Life Better

Many of us get stuck in our ruts and move through the routines of our lives without giving much thought to what we could be. But what if we actually took a bit of time to deeply imagine and write about our best possible future selves? It could be life-changing.

Much of the research into expressive writing—writing that simply expresses what is in our hearts and on our minds—asks people to write about a traumatic experience or an emotional upheaval. As it turns out, this model as created by Dr. James Pennebaker is a therapeutic exercise. Many of the writers in about 300 studies since the mid-1980s have experienced better physical and emotional health, along with other benefits.

However, Dr. Laura King wondered if it was necessary to write about something painful to receive the benefits. So she and her colleagues conducted studies in which they asked people to write about positive experiences instead. Many of these people also experienced positive outcomes, such as a boost in psychological well-being, improved overall performance, significantly more happiness, and in some instances, even better health.

One of her exercises is called the Best Possible Future Self. She asked people to write for twenty minutes for three days in a row, using these instructions: “Think about your life in the future. Imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. Think of this as the realization of all of your life dreams. Now, write about what you imagined.”

One thing I add to this exercise is to choose a future date when you want to be living as your best possible self and write that date on your journal entry. Then write in present tense, as if you are already living this life. Write in the style of “I am doing this” instead of “I will do this.” Using present tense for a future event helps you to move toward your goals by making them more real to your brain.

If you like, you can begin by sitting quietly for a few minutes, eyes closed, and letting your best possible future blossom in your imagination. Then pick up your pen and go!

For the best results, do this exercise on the next two days too. You will learn more about yourself and your priorities. You might also better understand your motives and emotional reactions, along with gaining a feeling of more control over your life. All of which will enhance your Living, Breathing Story.

Gratitude and 1000 Things

I recently spoke at the local Unitarian Universalist church about gratitude and gratitude journaling. This is one of my favorite subjects because people generally feel good after writing about something for which they are grateful. And I love it because I can include a little of the fascinating information that research has discovered about gratitude. People might be a little more encouraged to be grateful when they know that an ongoing practice of sincere gratitude can help lower their blood pressure and strengthen their immune system, help them feel more optimistic and less depressed, and also block toxic emotions, among other benefits.

But this time, I wanted to do something a little different, so I created an experiment for myself. A week before my talk, I decided to see if I could write a really long list of things I am grateful for. One journaling technique I often use and include in some of my programs is a List of 100. This can be a list of 100 anythings, like things that stress me out, things I want to do before I die, or, yes, even things that I am grateful for. The idea is to go as fast as you can, write one word or short phrase, and you can repeat.

But listing only 100 things I am grateful for is way too easy. I could do that, and probably not repeat myself, in about 20 or 30 minutes. So I chose to write a list of 1,000 things I am grateful for. I figured I could do 100 a day. But midweek, I realized I didn’t have 10 days, and I was going to be gone all of Saturday, the day before my talk. So, on Friday, I listed about 350, and then finished up with the last 20 on Sunday morning before leaving for the church. Some of the items are repeats, but not many.

Some are profound, including Ken and all the love and support he gives me, my good health, my parents and siblings, my work, waking up every day for nearly 66 years, and even “all the events over all of history that led to me being alive and writing my list.” Others were much less profound, like canned beans (we love them and I hate cooking beans from scratch), pens and paper, ceiling fans, and nonstick pots and pans. In between were clean hot and cold running water, the autumn colors on the trees, and wine. And yes, chocolate was there, too. I am grateful to one degree or another for everything on my list. Plus, the act of listing them opened my eyes to so many things I take for granted but without which my life would not be so happy, satisfying, and easy in many ways.

I gave my talk and at the end asked people to write down 10 things they are grateful for. Most of them had no problem with that. Then I revealed my list of 1000 and asked them to write “990 more things I am grateful for” under their 10 and invited them to try it sometime. I said they could write it in chunks over time but to keep going until they reached 1000, including repeats. I don’t know if anyone at the church will respond to my invitation but hope they do.

I added one more research tidbit about gratitude in my talk: Gratitude can actually change your brain in positive ways. When you start actively cultivating gratitude, your brain will encourage you to keep looking for more things for which to be grateful. That’s because gratitude activates brain regions associated with dopamine, the “reward” neurotransmitter. Dopamine is important in initiating action, which makes you more likely to do the same thing again because it makes you feel good. So once you start seeing things to be grateful for, your brain starts looking for even more things to be grateful for, which creates a positive cycle, which can change your life in a beneficial direction.

I invite you to write your own list of 1000 things you are grateful for. If you think about it, over the course of your entire life, there would be way more than a mere 1000. With enough time and determination, you can hit that number even before Thanksgiving.

One of these days, I will do this exercise again. By then, there will be even more things I can be grateful for. Probably even 1000 more.

Untangling the Story

As soon as I learned to read, I read. And read and read. Books by the armful, even entire volumes of the Golden Book Encyclopedia. Did I say I loved reading? And even though I knew I could never be a writer, when the editor of our eighth-grade classroom newspaper (on whom I had a serious crush, by the way) asked us all what career we would like to have, I said, “writer.” How amazing it would be to use words to entertain, move, and inform other people the way so many writers did for me! But no, I could never be a writer.

In college my first major was English because I didn’t know what else to choose (and it meant a lot of reading!). I changed it after a couple of years because I never wanted to teach and knew I could never be a writer. After graduation, I ended up in various jobs, none of which ever fed my soul, and even left me miserable at times. Then in my mid-30s, I applied for a corporate writing job, thinking, Why not? To my amazement, I was hired. I learned so much there and finally became a real writer. After six years, I liberated myself to begin a freelance writing career of nearly 20 years, which I loved and which taught me so much about myself.

The Universe works in mysterious ways, does it not? I am deeply grateful for all the twists and turns, beautiful as well as ugly, that delivered me to that life-changing job (and finally to my calling as a journal facilitator). As Don Henley sings, “For everyone who helped me start and for everything that broke my heart, for every breath, for every day of living, this is my Thanksgiving.”

Looking back, I can see how various experiences, beliefs, and often improbable circumstances kept me on the crazy path that eventually took me to where I needed to be, even though I had mistakenly believed—all together now!—I could never be a writer. If all those story threads could be mapped (and they can’t), the result would resemble an immense nest that could never be untangled.

Even so, I’ve enjoyed tugging on some of those threads in my journal: how going here instead of there led me to this person, which led me to a new experience; how listening to my intuition at a particular moment opened up new avenues of perception and experience; and yes, how so many books seemed to fall into my lap to expand my awareness at just the right times.

In this on-and-off writing over the years, I have learned so much about my Living, Breathing Story that would have remained hidden in memory. Far more than thinking alone could ever do, the writing has revealed an ongoing story arc I had never realized before and which I am learning to use as a guide into the rest of my life.

If you would like to attempt untangling some of your Living, Breathing Story, here are some ways to go:

  • The Steppingstones (by Ira Progoff) This exercise might seem too involved at first, but once you do it a couple of times, you’ll see how powerful it is. You can do it many times about many aspects of your life. https://www.lifejournal.com/articles/the-steppingstones-of-ira-progoff/
  • Recall one significant experience that put you on a new path: What brought you to that experience in the first place? Who played a role in it? Was it expected or a surprise? What made it significant? How did it change you? etc. You can write about it or do a cluster or mind map.
  • Imagine holding one thread of that nest of your Living, Breathing Story in your life right now or some aspect of it. If you start following or tugging on that thread, where does it lead? Is it a straight line or does it loop or spiral or circle back on itself? Can you see the other end far away, even if you don’t know the in-between part, and describe it? What’s at the place of origin? etc.

Which Door Do You Choose, and Why?

Do you remember the old game show Let’s Make a Deal? Contestants had to choose Door #1, #2, or #3 and would win the prize behind their chosen door. Some of the prizes were spectacular, like a new car or an expensive vacation to an exotic location. Others, not so much. For some reason, this show popped into my mind recently, and it got me thinking about doors and doorways.

Every day we walk through doorways of many kinds. Some of them are literal—from one room to the next or an entrance to a building. (Did you know there is research that shows how walking through a doorway makes us forget?)

Other doors are metaphorical—as in the phrase, “When one door closes, another one opens,” for instance. (You can substitute a window in this one, too.)

Sometimes the passage through the door is wide open and clear. We might stride through with confidence. Or we might trip and fall on our face as we step through it. Other times, the door might be closed—or even locked. Do we open it or not? Take a risk or stay safe?

Here are some ways you can explore the doors in your life—the ones chosen and not—and the ways in which they affected you. These exercises can offer interesting insights into yourself and your Living, Breathing Story and its successes and challenges. Write for at least 7 minutes on each one, but go as long as you like.

  1. Playwright Tom Stoppard wrote, “Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.” Think of a time when you voluntarily exited a place, situation, event, or experience and it turned out to be an entrance into something new. If you want a prompt to get started, you can try one of these: When I left… OR Leaving _________ behind… OR A new door opened when I…
  2. Next, make a list of 5 literal doorways you have walked through during the past week. Then choose one and write about that doorway and where it led you. Consider including a brief physical description of the doorway and the structure it is a part of, but especially explore why you walked through it and what the result was. (You can do this with all 5 doors if you like.)
  3. Recall a metaphorical doorway you were forced to move through: health to illness, marriage to divorce, old job to new job (or no job), etc. Describe this doorway and how moving through it changed you or what you learned.
  4. Finally, what is one special doorway you hope yet to enter during your life? Write about this in present tense, as if it were already happening.

Joy and Sorrow

My visit to Tucson was such a joy. It could not have been better. My two journaling programs were well-received, which always makes me happy. My rental car was a zippy 2018 fire-engine red Kia Soul—not my usual kind of car, but it’s all that was available in my category—and I had a ball driving it. I went back to some favorite restaurants, as well as some new ones, and enjoyed every meal. But the best part of the visit was reconnecting with friends I hadn’t seen since Ken and I moved away in 2011, or even before then.

In every single case, it felt as if we had been together just yesterday. We all picked up right where we left off and caught up with what’s been going on in our lives. It brought me great joy to know that, despite being physically separated by many miles, our heart connections are still strong and thriving. I relish my friendships with all of them: Marilyn N., Becky, Marge, Meira (and Jasmine), Laurie, Norm, Nan, Dave, (and now Rhonda), Wendy, Val (and now Steph), Susan, Allen, Todd, Joy, Steve, and Marilyn G.

Then, several days after I came home to Indiana, the morning news blared with the tragedy in Las Vegas, with the tally eventually reaching 59 dead and more than 500 injured, all at the hands of one man high up in a hotel room stocked with way, way too many guns. My joy was blasted away, replaced by shock and sorrow.

I’ve been struggling since then, seeking solace and wondering, as are so many, why we continue to let this kind of horror happen. I have no answers, only a heart that keeps threatening to close itself off in self-protection against yet another senseless, horrific tragedy—perhaps one that will fall upon someone I love.

I refuse to let that happen, though. So I keep turning to my journal. Into its pages, I pour out my anguish and my questions, my fears and confusion. Imagining what it might be like for the families of the 59 and the many injured and their families, I wrote about how it feels to hear the news that someone you love deeply is suddenly in ICU because of another’s actions and it’s too early to know how your lives might be changed forever. Those feelings of terror and utter helplessness, bewilderment and anger all flooded back to me.

And I keep returning to writing about what is good in my life—there is so much good—and my gratitude for all of it. And I write about the love that is always, everywhere present—one deranged man did so much damage, but look at the many more people who took great risks to protect others, saved lives, drove the wounded to hospitals, lined up to donate blood, tended to and comforted the wounded and their families. Right now, those things seem small in the face of the gigantic horror that was visited upon a peaceful, happy concert—but that’s what important and what we must cling to. As this quotation attributed to Mr. Rogers says, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Because in that helping is much love and goodness we need to remember.

Despite what the 24-hour news cycle would have us believe, there is infinitely more good in the world than bad. It’s hard to see it on many days, I know. But it’s true, so pay more attention to what’s good in your life. Remember that your brain physically changes depending upon what you think about: neurons that fire together wire together. Do your best to seek out and concentrate on all the good in your world, in this entire world. Write about it often. Talk about it. Cherish it. Savor it. This does not mean to bury your head in the sand or to be a Pollyanna; it’s still important to take healthy, positive action, whatever that might be for you. But remember that putting energy into something makes it grow stronger within you and in the world, so take care of yourself and choose carefully.

Memories Are Made of This

It’s been hectic here lately, as I prepare to leave on a trip to Tucson. In my 12 years there, I met and married Ken, we survived his traumatic brain injury and my bout with breast cancer, and I began my journaling work. While I’m there, I’ll have an opportunity to visit our old home and meet the new owner. I’m looking forward to that.

The vista from our large back windows began with the Catalina Mountains off to the right and then ranged for miles, all the way across the valley to the far side of the high-desert city. From our cozy vantage point, we watched the monsoon rains roll towards us from the horizon, often leaving behind a glorious sunset, and marveled as the turkey buzzards—ugly birds up close—transformed into gorgeous gliders as they soared on the thermals, circling up and up and up until they disappeared from view. Coyotes regularly loped across the open desert of our backyard. A bobcat or two appeared over the years, more hesitant than the coyotes. Javelina, too, often barreled through, at least before the neighborhood was built up.

As I now sit here in the much greener landscape of Southwestern Indiana, remembering my time in Tucson conjures so many memories. I am aware of them as thoughts but also as physical sensations I can’t really name. Is “nostalgia” a physical thing? Sure feels like it. Our brains can’t really distinguish between what we experience and what we imagine, so when I recall the lush beauty of that harsh landscape blossoming after the heavy rains, the delicate, just-washed fragrance of the desert, and the sensation of the cool, post-rain air against my skin, my body feels much the same joyous sensations as it did then. Then there was the morning after a rare snowfall that left an inch or two of white blanketing everything from our patio for miles up to the tops of the Catalinas (the photo above)—the brilliant memory makes my breath catch nearly as much as it did on that day. I feel almost transported back there.

Searching for the exact words to communicate all of this is hard, but discovering the ones that convey what I want to say brings up a “felt sense, “ a little internal sizzle, a tiny “yes!” somewhere in physical body as a result of my thoughts. Have you ever noticed this feeling, as you write or paint or do something you love but which takes a little effort?

This inseparable linkage between mind and body—wait, it’s not a link; the two really are one entity, a bodymind is more like it—this is the reason I love the whole concept of A Living, Breathing Story. It’s because that is what we are. And we are always capable of positive change. It might not be easy, but it is possible, with the right tools (journaling sure is helpful), determination, and the belief that it is possible.

Everyone, you have a good week while I’m gone, presenting a couple of workshops and visiting with old friends in old haunts. And if you’ve a mind to try them, here are a few journaling prompts that can help you experience your bodymind.

  • Recall a pleasant vivid experience from your memory. Sit quietly for a few moments as you let it wash over you and experience the physical sensations again: What did you see, hear, smell, feel, and/or taste? When you are ready, begin writing about that experience with as much sensory detail as possible. Keep your pen moving for 10 minutes or longer, until the writing feels complete. Pay attention to the ways your memories (thoughts) affect your physical body and record that after the main write is done.
  • Sit in a favorite spot, either indoors or out, quietly observing and taking in what your senses pick up: sights, smells, tastes, sounds, touch. Write them down as you become aware of them and then explore your thoughts about them. Don’t judge or criticize: it’s all good.
  • Over several days, take a few minutes to write down your thoughts and how your body feels about them. Once you get some experience with this, it will become easier to determine what’s really going on inside during confusing times because your body always responds to your thoughts.