“This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.”
Lately, I have spent a lot of time listening to my inner stirrings. Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati writes, “Quiet the mind and the soul will speak.” I am so deeply grateful for the connection, clarity, compassion and understanding that has resulted from my blog. I started writing for myself and to deal with losing my mom, unaware that I would share or have anyone read my writing (other than friends and family). Now, I am touched on a daily basis by people reaching out in response to my words. There is no greater compliment. The simple prayer, “May my suffering be of service” plays on repeat in my mind.
When I find something that enriches my life and makes it better, I am bursting at the seams to share it with anyone and everyone who will listen. I want to find a way to help others enjoy this same gratifying process. Writing as a tool for self-discovery, healing and connection is a gift I wish that everyone could experience.
One of my favorite writing gurus, Natalie Goldberg, has a book titled Writing Down the Bones. In essence, that is what we do. We write to find our structure, what holds us up and keeps us together. This excavation of self becomes a direct passageway to the soul. “The soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness,” writes poet Mary Oliver. Stay woke, my friends, and let the ink flow freely.
It is a modern day tragedy that we consider down time to be a waste of our time. Our culture is obsessed with efficiency and productivity. It is the American way. So, where do quiet meditations, wandering walks, and haphazard journal writing fit into this picture? They don’t and that is the problem.
We make no time to listen to ourselves and let our souls speak because it doesn’t make the to-do list. Tragic, dear friends. Yoga and writing have become my saving grace because they make me slow down and literally sit with myself. Overscheduling and trying to do it all disconnect us from our true selves. We bury our inner voice so deep in minutiae and everyday tasks that we eventually forget the voice even exists. It drops down into a deep well until it fades into empty space. And that is exactly how we are left feeling - empty.
This dangerous self-neglect is why I want to welcome everyone to the writer’s table. Yes, you can read all the books, listen to the podcasts, hear the messages that work for others but never skip the most important session. Listen to yourself. Let your heart and soul speak through the pen or the key strikes. Time spent in quiet solitude and reflection is transformative.
First, you might have to perform a brain dump. Go ahead, let it all out. Cast down your burdens. Make your list. Write your concerns. Let your mind know that it is heard and acknowledged. Then, throw caution to the wind and write what is there underneath - your fears, your hopes, your dreams. Capture descriptions and moments where you feel your best. Find what sets your soul on fire.
Next, read what you write. Practice being a good listener. What are you saying to yourself from the page? Do you see any patterns emerging? Mornings that I spend time writing and listening to myself before I jump into my duties always lead to my best, clearest days. I dabbled in guided meditation for a bit and reaped benefits, but these days I savor the moments of silence with my own version of a moving meditation - either writing or walking. Attentiveness crafts my soul.
In a world filled with never-ending noise and static, it can be next to impossible to hear ourselves think. Now, more than ever, we need to demand space and opportunity to be human beings not just human doings. I encourage my students to use writing as a tool to study and memorize content. Our mind tends to retain information once we put it down on paper. Perhaps the same can be said about our inner selves. Writing down our soul might be the very thing that keeps us from losing it.
Here are some tips to get you writing:
Invest in good materials.
My journals are visually beautiful. They make me happy every time I see them. I keep a reading journaI and a personal, reflective journal. There is another small notebook in my purse for when I am out and find inspiration. You should also buy your favorite type of pen. You deserve it! This process should be enjoyable and good writing tools are imperative. Yes, you can type, but I highly recommend writing by hand; the old fashioned way offers a mind/body connection.
Prioritize alone time in your life and keep it sacred.
This one is not always easy if you have little people in your home. Some of us have to literally schedule down time on our calendar. Reading and writing are as necessary to my overall well-being as any other act of self-care and deserve the same level of priority. Writing is thinking, so I find it best to write when I have time to think AND feel. Many famous yogis write in a journal immediately after leaving their mat when their mind is clear and calm. I like to write after a walk, bath, and first thing in the morning.
Always remember your audience - YOURSELF.
Nobody has to read it but you! Some people might put their whole life on the internet for anybody and everybody to read, but we are the weird few. And, believe it or not, I actually have clear boundaries and don't “journal” on my blog. There is no point feeling embarrassed or self conscious. No red pen will invade this space and pounce on your use of the wrong “there.” Just write. You are not aiming for a finished product. Give yourself some freedom and remove all censorship. It can be quite liberating.
If you aren't quite sure how to get started, use resources to guide you.
My husband, who cannot sit still for more than five minutes, found a solution that works for his personality and goals. He uses the "Five Minute Journal." It gives him some guidance for implementing a mindfulness practice into his day. It is sustainable since it only requires minutes of his time and attention each day. My friend and author, Rosie Molinary, developed an excellent journal titled “Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance.” It is a 365 day journey to self-acceptance and offers excellent insight along the way. Other journals offer prompts or simply ask you to write about things you are grateful for in a day.