Tag Archives: thich nhat hanh

What is journaling?

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.


The Exponential Nature of Compassion


A friend on Facebook shared this quotation from Joel Osteen: “The greatest gift you can give someone is your time, your attention, your love, your concern.”

It makes me think about what I heard Thich Nhat Hanh say this past Saturday about compassionate listening. Being open to hearing what others are saying, what they are doing, their expressions and postures – without interruption, reaction, or judgment – makes us aware and mindful of their suffering. That awareness gives birth to compassion, which benefits both yourself and the person you are listening to.

Awareness of another’s suffering generates compassionate energy. It also makes us aware of our own suffering, generating further compassionate energy. That energy infuses your interactions with those around you and even with your own feelings and thoughts, giving birth to more compassionate energy in both others and yourself. Compassion spreads like wildfire.

This is the way in which the benefits of feeling and showing compassion to yourself and others blossoms exponentially. I truly believe that the greatest hope for the world is compassion and caring “going viral.”


Snowshoeing Meditation


Thich Nhat Hanh has his niche, walking meditation. (Okay, his “niche” is as wide as the Grand Canyon, but humor me.) Now I’ve found my niche, snowshoeing meditation.

I went snowshoeing for the first time today, on a crisp, sunny morning. (By crisp, I mean cold enough that exposed fingers could be snapped off like icicles hanging from your gutter.) The snow was nearly pristine, save for a handful of human and dog footprints (and the occasional patch of yellow snow) and a couple of bicycle grooves. The sun was bright, if not warm. There was nary another soul to be seen.

Perfect conditions for meditation. Snowshoeing meditation is going to take off. Get in on the front end before the meditation trails fill up with meditators. Because they will, when people hear about the rare insights that I found while trudging through the powder.


Mortal embarrassment is a reasonable approximation of humility. I was no more than a tenth of a mile into my first snowshoe journey when I stepped on one snowshoe with the other snowshoe and tumbled head first, ass second. Laying on my stomach, snowshoes tangled behind me, snow in my face, I benefited from the unique perspective of looking up at the rest of the world. Lest I think the experience a fluke, I repeated it misstep for misstep a mere five minutes later. No mistaking the message: This is the way I ought to look at the world.


Barely a day ago, this path along the Tarrytown reservoir was bare, perhaps sporting the occasional dead leaf. Late yesterday it was a pristine boulevard of unmarked snow. With the passage of each hiker, dog walker, squirrel, deer, child on a mountain bike, and other wild animals, the path changed. Sometimes slightly, imperceptibly; sometimes significantly, unmistakably. No doubt, as the day progressed, more and more beings passed through, experiencing a different path from the one I did, and altering the path again. Tomorrow it promises to be warmer, there may even be some rain, and the path will change again.


Fresh snow resting atop tree branches is a lovely, peaceful sight. There was plenty of evidence of the damage last year’s major snowstorms did, however, with the woods populated by jagged stumps of trees that had snapped in two from the weight of the snow. Occasionally, as I passed a younger tree bending under its snow coat, I would poke a branch with one of my walking poles. Freed of its burden, the tree would snap upright again. The things that we attach ourselves to, or that attach to us, can weigh us down as well, bending us over under their accumulation. Meditation, acts of compassion, and other practices are needed to shake those attachments off and free us to walk the path uprightly.


As I neared the end of my snowshoe trip, I was beginning to draft this blog post. That’s the way I generally write. By the time I sit down to type, much of what I intend to write is already in my head. That’s neither good nor bad, but it’s definitely not conducive to snowshoeing. I guess I had already forgotten the lesson of face planche-induced humility. My snowshoes tangled again, nearly dumping me on my melon once more. I literally heard the words in mind, Pay attention! I had stopped being mindful of the main task at hand, putting one snowshoed foot in front of the other, rather than on top of the other. I was grateful for the lesson, and thankful that it didn’t take another face full of snow to learn.

So, am I right? Snowshoeing meditation is going to be all the rage, right? Hello?