Category Archives: Routine

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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Meditation Is What Works for You

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Meditation Is What Works for You
Our natural state as beings is centeredness and balance. The many stimuli we encounter in a typical day of living threaten to push us off center and throw us off balance.
 
Meditation and mindfulness are tools for restoring and maintaining a centered and balanced life. Whether we realize it or not, we yearn to be restored to centeredness and balance.
 
So when I hear someone say that meditation just isn’t for them, it sounds as if they are saying they do not want to be centered and balanced. Whatever habits and routines support centering and balance in our lives, those are the components of our meditation and mindfulness practice.
 
For some people, it involves sitting on a cushion with their legs crossed and their eyes closed. For others, it is walking through the woods, or coloring, or riding a playground swing, or a million other activities. Sometimes, there are several activities that may work for us.
 
The point is, meditation and mindfulness practice consists of whatever activities center and balance you. The trick is to figure out what those activities are that work best for you. There is no right way to meditate—there is only the right way for you.

Shaving Meditation

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I’m a big believer that you can meditate anywhere, anytime, and while doing anything. (Such as, say…when snowshoeing.) Stated differently, I strongly believe you can do anything meditatively. This morning I tried a new practice: shaving meditation.

Normally, I will meditate in a more traditional manner after waking. Then, when I start my morning routine, my brain is kind of limbered up and ready to start the day’s heavy lifting. Occasionally, if time is short, my meditation takes place during my morning routine — while I’m pulling out clothes to put on, feeding the cats, and so on. Then the flow of thoughts starts up along with the water in the shower. Throughout the showering process — washing, shaving, shampooing — my brain is actively organizing itself and preparing for the day ahead.

My available time was shorter than usual this morning, so I got in the shower rather quickly. My brain was ready to kick into its stream of organizational consciousness, out of sheer habit. But I hadn’t yet had my meditative equivalent of the morning cup o’ joe. So I decided to meditate while showering.

It can seem counterintuitive that one can meditate while being active. That is because we mentally limit meditation to sitting still on a cushion. Meditation does not require physical stillness. What is more important to successful meditation is stillness of mind — rooting the mind in the present moment, completely aware of what is going on inside us and around us. It may be more challenging to find that awareness when active, but it is by no means impossible.

We can be focused while active, paying close attention to what we are doing as we are doing it, all the while practicing breathing out distractions and breathing in focus on what is happening right now. And so I focused on the elements of shaving. I felt the facial wash cleaning away dry skin, smelled the aroma of the soap; saw the bristles of the shaving brush in detail and felt their soft strokes across my skin; experienced the tingle of the pre-shave cream and breathed the eucalyptus scent in deeply; watched extraordinarily closely as the shaving cream spread across my face and was subsequently removed column by column by the razor along with my beard stubble. I shuddered at the initial sting of the hot shower water as I rinsed the leftover shaving cream from my face. I luxuriated in the clean, fresh feeling on my cheeks, chin, and neck.

It was a truly amazing experience. It was as if I had never shaved before, though I must have shaved thousands of times. I don’t know that I will ever shave un-mindfully again — it was that revelatory. Most importantly, when I emerged from the shower my mind was awake, alert, and ready to go, just like it is after I meditate on my cushion. Cool, very cool.

This can, of course, be done with just about any activity. Eating meditatively, for instance, is surprisingly easy to do and incredibly beneficial. But that’s a story for another blog post. Right now, I need to look into trademarking “shaving meditation.” You never know when something is going to go viral.