This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!
Chapter 15: The Power of Journaling
Bob: Sift? Are you there?
Sift: Good morning, Bob.
Bob: Considering my circumstances, it is an absolute mystery to me how I slept so well last night. What are you doing to me to make that happen?
Sift: I am not doing anything. It’s because of what you are doing. Restful sleep is often, but not always, one of the benefits of clear thinking and the by-product of longer periods of mind-body synchronization.
Sift: Bob, your mind is capable of being in the past, present, or future. Your body, or physical being, can only exist in the present. Therefore, the only place your mind and body can be in sync is in the present. Synchronizing your mind and body usually helps you feel more focused, grounded, and centered. These feelings, in turn, help your body and mind function at their best in both waking and non-waking periods. You spent a lot of time with your mind and body in sync yesterday for the first time in a long time.
Bob: Oh, that’s the “staying in the present moment” thing that people talk about? So, I need to always stay in the present moment?
Sift: No, there is significant value in mentally reflecting on the past and future. You can learn from the past and gain inspiration from the future. Problems only arise when you spend too much time out of sync with your body. Therefore, it is a good idea to spend most of your time in a present-oriented frame of mind.
Bob: I wrote in my journal this morning. Three pages!
Sift: Tell me about it.
Bob: To be honest, I didn’t really want to do it at first. I actually felt some discomfort that I did not have any meetings or work activities planned for the day. However, once I relaxed and got started, things got interesting. It was almost as if thoughts were flowing through me and onto the pages. I felt more like a conduit for the thoughts than the source of them. The thoughts seemed to randomly jump from topic to topic and across time periods. Actually, some of the thoughts were strange – thoughts about very specific childhood experiences, my college dorm room, my bills, people I haven’t thought of in years, my grandfather’s watch, smoke inside my body, a strange kite made of dollar bills, and other weird things like that.
Sift: What was the main feeling you experienced when you were journaling?
Bob pauses and thinks for a moment.
Bob: Well, I felt, for lack of a better word, a sense of cleansing. Does that make sense to you?
Sift: Yes, it does, Bob. Will you try something for me right now?
Sift: Relax, close your eyes, and breathe like I suggested before. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly for a minute or so. When you finish, tell me what went through your mind when you were doing this.
Bob pauses and opens his eyes after 37 seconds.
Bob: Sorry, Sift. I got so relaxed. I know I probably took much more than a minute.
Sift: That’s all right, Bob. You did fine. What was going on in your mind once you got into the rhythm of breathing? Did you experience any mental imagery?
Bob: Yeah, I did. I experienced a visual image of taking in pure, clear air and exhaling dark, black smoke. As I continued to exhale, the smoke got lighter in color. When I stopped, the smoke was still dark, but more gray than black.
Sift: Okay, why don’t you turn that visual image into an exercise and repeat it from time to time. Especially anytime you feel sadness, anger, or anxiety. Also, do the same thing with other thoughts that show up in your journal. Focus on the thought, and breathe in and out deeply and slowly, while thinking of the thought.
Bob: How do I know which thought to choose?
Sift: Tell me, what does the word resonate mean to you? What does it mean to resonate with something?
Bob: To me, that means something that provokes some sort of interesting, usually pleasant emotion, or curiosity.
Sift: Good, that’s the process you can use to choose your thought. Browse through your journal and pick a thought that causes you to experience a sense or feeling of resonance.
Bob: Okay, and doing this will help me discover my calling or next adventure in life?
Sift: Bob, do you remember when I talked about looking at this process as a puzzle or combination lock?
Sift: Think of journaling, and all the things you experience as a result of reflecting on your journal thoughts, as pieces of the puzzle. There is no one way to discover your calling, and the same ideas will not work for everyone. Sometimes, a single idea or process makes things fall in place quickly; sometimes, it takes a combination of ideas over a longer period of time. I am going to talk with you about many things that will help you, or prove to be obstacles, to zero in on your calling. You decide which ones you want to try, which ones you do not think will work for you, and which potential obstacles you need to address. For example, you do not have to keep journaling after trying it a few days if you do not feel it is helping. However, I do strongly suggest you continue writing in your journal because, in your case, you accomplished in one try what many people take days or weeks to accomplish.
Bob: What is that?
Sift: You got to the point where you were experiencing a sense of flow on your first try. That probably means you have many thoughts and feelings that need to be processed or resolved. Journaling is one way to process such things. In any case, you choose the ideas you want to pursue. Other people respond more to meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, or other activities that counteract the urge to fill the day with busyness.
Bob: I absolutely want to keep journaling. It was interesting and I enjoyed it. It was quite a radical departure from my normal routine of rushing around to get ready, gulping coffee, fighting rush-hour traffic, and such.
Sift: Good, how you begin your day often sets the tone for how the rest of your day will unfold. Journaling and similar activities help retrain your nervous system to embrace a more productive pace for life. People often get addicted to busyness and need some process to help them settle in to a better pace. And pacing your life appropriately is one of the keys to becoming more grounded and centered. The irony is that you will accomplish much more in a typical day when you slow down a bit and pace yourself correctly.
Bob: I will keep journaling and experiment with some of the other techniques you mentioned.
Sift: Good, here are a few suggestions for your journaling. Keep letting your thoughts unfold naturally, if they will. If you ever get stuck, write about four things: people who have influenced you; events – good and bad – that somehow shaped your life, especially events that turned out to present fork-in-the-road choices or decisions for you; things you want to do, be, or have in the future; and things that create a sense or feeling of gratitude.
Bob: Influential people? Do you mean people like my parents?
Sift: I mean any influential people in your past or present world – parents, relatives, siblings, caregivers, teachers, coaches, bosses, coworkers, friends, or anyone else who influenced you in any way. Don’t force these topics. Again, if you can’t think of anything else, start with them and let your thoughts go where they want to go.
Bob: Sift, this is just a structured process to help me get better at slowing down and reflecting on important things, isn’t it? It will help keep me from getting too caught up in the busyness trap, won’t it?
Bob: I’m going to get a cup of coffee and then I want to talk more. Sift, thanks for helping me!
Sift: Okay, Bob. It is my pleasure, and I appreciate your curiosity. I’ll be here when you are ready to continue.
End Chapter 15
Main takeaway: It’s a good idea to develop your own way, or ways, to process the events of your life.
- Do you believe you should always try to stay in the present moment? Why or why not?
- Why do you think the process of journaling is beneficial for many people?
- Who were the influential people, and what were the significants events, that shaped your current viewpoint of the world?
The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting