Category Archives: Health

What is journaling?

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What is journaling?

The simplest answer is, “Whatever  you want it to be.” I have found that journaling is a lot like meditation: There is no single way of journaling that is right for everyone; to the contrary, journaling is whatever form of routine writing that supports us.

In the same way that meditation is not limited to sitting with our legs crossed and our eyes closed, journaling is not limited to whatever particular practice that one calls “journaling.” The walking meditation espoused by Thich Nhat Hanh and others, for instance, is a perfectly acceptable alternative to sitting on a cushion if it is the form of meditation that supports our health – mental, physical, spiritual, emotional… The form is not important, but rather the intention of centering ourselves and tapping into our awareness of what is going on inside us and around us.

Likewise, there are countless types of journaling that are beneficial, not just keeping a diary. We can write page upon page of detailed reminiscences of our day’s thoughts and activities, or we can jot down a few words that have been swirling around our brains. We can make a list of things we are grateful for, or sketch out a goal for the day, week, or month. Any of those and many other forms of journaling are perfectly acceptable alternatives if they are the form of journaling that supports our health – mental, physical, spiritual, emotional… The key is, again, not the form, but rather the intention of paying attention to our thoughts and actions by giving them even the relatively tiny bit of attention and time necessary to write them down.

Journaling of that sort is a type of mindfulness practice.

Best of all, we don’t have to practice just one form of meditation or one form of journaling. On any given day, we can pursue the form that we feel we need at that time. It is a healthy thing to regularly think about what we have in our lives to be grateful for, but it may not be the type of journaling that we most need on a particular day.

Remember that we cannot pick incorrectly when it comes to journaling, meditation, and other mindfulness practices. Any one of them can benefit us.

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More about Active Meditation

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If you thought my musings about meditating while shaving or snowshoeing odd, then you will truly be baffled by recent articles about meditating on the treadmill and while mowing the lawn.

Mowing may be the next form of meditation: “Researchers from the University of Queensland Brisbane discovered that a chemical released from a mowed lawn actually makes people feel happy and relaxed.”

I don’t know about the biochemical aspect of mowing the lawn, but I can personally attest to the meditative nature of lawn work in general, particularly the use of noisy equipment. Using something noisy may sound counterproductive to establishing a foundation for meditation. However, the noise of leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, and lawn mowers is kind of like a white noise – constant and enveloping, and in that way no different than wearing noise-cancelling headphones.

My condo association contracts for landscaping, but I used to look forward to autumn and blowing leaves when I owned a house and had to take care of such things myself. That sound would fill my ears, the vibration would spread from my hands, up my arms and into my torso, and I would enter a meditative state. Sometimes my mind would be mostly blank, other times my mind would grapple with arising thoughts and emotions, just like when I sit on my cushion.

Meditation made easy: How to train your brain on the treadmill: “This meditation will double the benefit of working out by connecting body and mind. It will inspire spiritual practice and keep your workouts from becoming another frenetic activity in an already busy life.”

I have no doubt that this can work as well, again from personal experience. I have done much the same thing on the elliptical machine many times. Be careful though: You don’t want to end up on a TV show when someone records you falling face-first on the treadmill when your attention wanders too far away.

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Prescription: Meditation

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Meditation and mindfulness are not silver bullets for what ails you. Hardly a week passes these days, though, without another report of further evidence of their benefits.

Mindfulness Meditation Trims Craving for Tobacco – “a form of mindfulness meditation known as Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT) curtailed their smoking by 60 percent.”

The Health Benefits of Meditation – “studies have shown that meditation can not only reduce your daily stress, but it can also help improve your skin, reduce blood pressure and enhance your immune system.”

A 10-Step Mindfulness Practice for Better Sleep – “There are some specific meditative exercises that can help us nod off when our minds are in overdrive.”

Meditate Your Way to a Healthy Heart – “Researchers have found that transcendental meditation can actually help you keep your heart healthy by reducing high blood pressure.”

7 Health Benefits of Meditation – “a comprehensive scientific study showing that deep relaxation changes our bodies on a genetic level.”

Cure for Common Cold: Meditation & Exercise – “When it comes to the common cold, there are two natural cures that can make a huge difference in helping you heal – meditation and exercise.”

Meditation for Bladder Problems? – “According to a study, cognitive therapy such as meditation may be effective in the management strategy for urinary incontinence.”

Karen Lorre Has 11 Orgasms in One Day Thanks to “Orgasmic Meditation” – “Rather than Orgasm being a fleeting moment in time, we view Orgasm as a source of unlimited energy that’s found in all of us.”

Okay, that last one is a bit weird.

Are meditation and mindfulness magical? They certainly seem that way.

Our natural state is one of health and wholeness, of calm and centeredness, of being in the moment. Meditation fosters mindful living and restores us to our natural state. Is it any wonder, then, that meditation and mindfulness are connected with so many medical advances?