Writing

Grow Your Soul, Nourish Your Spirit

In an overcrowded, stess-inducing, crazy world, where does one find solace and relief?

Modern “civilized” humans are no longer naturally conditioned to spend time just thinking, or devoting sacred time for turning within. It can be easier to work with a therapist, take a pill, another drink, or just chin-up-it and perc along hoping things will get better on their own, as though time alone is a restorative curative for what ails one.

There is another way to grab back some sanity and self-discover what is really going on underneath the stress and consequences of this modern, hectic life: journaling. I’m not talking about keeping a diary, although it can be that if that is what you need, nor is this just expanding on your day planner by tracking what you did or who you saw, although it can hold some of that as well. I’m referring to the frequent (if not daily) habit of writing in a journal or notebook and capturing your inner thoughts, true feelings, and surfacing hidden or suppressed emotions. This method is an excellent path to take on the way to growing your soul and nurturing your spirit.

Journaling can take many forms: by keyboard, keypad, handwriting, audio recording, or any method that works for you to motivate and keep you writing. Those who start fresh will likely notice their journals in the beginning are mostly daily what-I-did captures of things in a journalistic, recorded way … at first. Over time and through a repetitive, daily writing habit, you will likely discover thoughts coming through your fingers unexpectedly, revealing emotions and true feelings about something that has been bothering you. It is not uncommon to surface something old or long-buried under the modeled behaviours and trained thinking we all grew up with. The consistency of daily (or at least frequent) writing coaxes out those bits to resolve that will be balm for your soul and elixirs for your spirit.

Whether you are a veteran journaler or just beginning, here are some approaches and methods to try out. No one way is better than another, and this list is by no means all forms possible: think of it as a starting menu to mentally dine from and eat experimentally. What you write about is up to you and my best suggestion for whichever method or approach you try is to just keep the pen, pencil, or fingers moving and see what happens.

  • Morning pages – First thing each morning, write for X minutes or X pages non-stop, and keep the writing instrument/or fingers constantly moving. 15 minutes or two-to-three pages is a great start. This method is excellent for a mental dumping of whatever has bubbled up in your consciousness (or sub-consciousness) overnight.
  • Timed journaling – Similar to morning pages, but instead establish a duration (15- or 20-minutes is good) to write about whatever comes to mind. Keep your thoughts going, but not necessarily with a constant moving of pen or fingers. Intent is for more focus on capturing thoughts or events in whole rather than a mind-dump as with morning pages. Works well any time of the day, and a variant late at night can be beneficial for reflecting back on the day’s events and thoughts.
  • Journal prompts – Like guided meditation, this method is worked via a specific prompt to keep you writing and thinking along the prompt’s topic or question, as opposed to whatever comes to mind. The internet is bulging with writing/journaling prompt suggestions, so toss a search phrase out in Google and you will be overwhelmed by options.
  • Journal challenges – Best one I know of (and use myself) is the organized NaJoWriMo, a cousin to the famed annual November novel-writing challenge. Check out najowrimo.org for the next monthly challenge to join (I believe Bakari runs them two-three times per year). You can also purchase a month-long daily prompt from Bakari focuses on the challenge’s topic (I did just that for April and loving the guiding prompts!).
  • Trigger word – Think of a concept that you struggle with: commitment, sustainability, participation, activism, doing art, doing creative things, exercising, etc., etc. – could be anything. Then spend a timed effort (or even free-form) writing about that concept: how you feel, how it makes you feel, your barriers/desires/wants/needs, etc. This method can be quite powerful and surprisingly emotional if you let yourself get into it, but then, that’s the growing/nurturing you may truly need!
  • Self interview – Useful for working through issues you are blocking or resistant to talk about at a deep level, the self interview consists simply (but powerfully) of emulating a journalist by asking yourself questions interview-style. Each answer then leads to a follow-up question that leads to another and so forth. This method can be both fun and a bit challenging, depending on where you want to take it and what surfaces in the process.

There are many more targeted uses for journaling, but one or more of the above methods should help you on your way to growing your soul while nurturing your spirit!

Have success, challenges, or failures with any of these? Let me know in the comments, where I would also love to hear about other ways you use journaling along your life’s path.

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Life

Birdbrains

Each winter I try to help our feathered friends by keeping the bird feeders full. Unlike a neighbor down the street, I stop filling the feeders once spring arrives so the birds can forage on their own. While it’s fun to see the birds flocking around her feeders year-round, I don’t think it’s a good thing to interrupt the natural cycles of forage and spread that the birds do each year.

It’s been great fun watching the birds this winter, made all the more frequent by the mildness we’ve experienced here in Northwest Ohio. Yet, despite snow and cold, the birds still hit the feeders regularly. I’m no birdwatcher in the sense of being able to tell you what I’m looking at, but it doesn’t take one to marvel at the competitiveness and at times, meanness, I’ve seen from these feathered creatures. Sometimes one bird will viciously chase another away despite plenty of room on the feeder. And there’s a group of smaller birds that frantically hop between a feeder hole and nearby branch, leaving me wondering how they’re getting anything to eat.

And then there’s the basement dwellers, those birds content to avoid the competitive action on the feeders and peck their way to contentedness on the ground. They get plenty to eat because I’ve learned birds are inherently messy and picky at the feeders. Watching them closely, they knock out more seed than they’re eating, much to the delight of the basement birds and the odd squirrel that wanders over to forage as well.

They are difficult to photograph, since the least bit of movement or shadow shifting in the window scatters them instantly, except for the doves who just continue to peck and sort on the ground ignoring the big monster staring at them through the window. Considering how fast all of them move and how frequently, it shouldn’t surprise me that I’m refilling the feeders every three days or so.

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Life

Kapha This

The roots of ayurvedic practice go back thousand of years. No question they have deep evidence of effectiveness else they wouldn’t be around this long. But to western ears and minds, the names and practices and approaches can be daunting, which is a polite way of saying “weird” (at first).

Traditional ayurvedic medicine is, per the ayurvedicinstitute.com:

“…ancient Indian therapies to help heal and maintain the quality and longevity of life. As a science of self-healing, Ayurveda encompasses diet and nutrition, lifestyle, meditation, postures, breathing exercises and medical herbs along with cleansing and rejuvenation programs for healing body, mind, and spirit.”

I attended a friend’s session over the weekend to learn about an ayurvedic spring cleanse. Spring is the time to cleanse the accumulation and stagnation, and reset the digestive system. We eat heavier foods over the winter and tend to be les active, so the coming of spring is a good time to transition to a more active life. A cleanse also helps rid toxins from the system as part of resetting things.

The session was fascinating on many levels, from the intense specificity of this practice to the handful of light bulbs flashing in my mind as she explained the need for cleansing and the negative effects it helps resolve. The “ahas!” weren’t so much from the cleanse aspect, but from the long list of maladies that relate to something I’ve been trying to offset for 10 years or so.

Bottom line: much thinking and a $78 contribution to Amazon and I’m taking a baby step into the ayurvedic world, primarily in baby-step enhancements to help digestion. Where it will lead is unknown, but there is much wisdom in this ancient wisdom that makes a lot of sense as a more noble path for our body, mind, and spirit that what our western diets, lifestyles, and insatiable “entertain me” societal offerings would provide. In a sense, you could call this approach the analogue version of diet fads, except it’s not a diet in any sense of the word (other than if you use “diet” to purely mean what you ingest into your body).

As anyone stepping into a world with its own vocabulary and buzz words would be warned about, the ayurvedic world is thick with these. Meet anyone passionate in this approach and you may, at first, find it difficult to follow their conversation. It all begins with figuring out one’s dosha, which could be vata, pitta, or kapha. Maintain balance in these doshas and enjoy good health; allow imbalance and invite disease and unhealthiness.

I’m not going to go into what each means since I’m just learning and concentrating on spelling them correctly! But I can share that you can determine which you are (your dosha influences just about everything you do ayurvedically) through an interview with an ayurvedic practitioner, or the modern, impatient version consisting of an online quiz. I embarked on the latter, choosing to take not one, but SIX different online tests. Doing overkill was as much about curiosity as it was about wanting confirmation on the results.

I’m a kapha, confirmed by 5 of the 6, with the last one pegging me as a kapha-pitta. Exactly what that means I’ll learn over time and maybe share more here, but for the moment, I’m hopeful as I enter into a kapha-this, kapha-that world and we’ll see where it takes me.

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