5 Benefits of Journaling: Know Yourself Better

5 benefits of journaling: know yourself better

***This is Part 2 of 5 on the benefits of journaling.

Ah, to know yourself better! What freedom there is when you understand your longings, desires, frustrations, and most importantly, the patterns of your own mind.

For years, I wrote till I wore out the thoughts. When I would become obsessed with something – a goal, an achievement, a plan, a pain – I’d take the pen to try to solve the questions and problems. I’d fix it on paper and everything would fall into line. I wasn’t sure how it happened but the journal was as good as a 1. Best Friend 2. Therapist 3. Dog who loved me unconditionally (see number 1).

What happened was that the pen fixed my mind as much as my meditation practice and all my studying of impermanence, joy, lovingkindness, equanimity, and compassion. I’d sit down with a goal to make something happen but what actually happened was wearing out the “thinker” like a little child. I let her run in fields and meadows until she was tuckered out. Then the true insight would show itself to me.

As time went on, I began to get quite curious about this. Deep intuition arose naturally. As I wrote, I noticed the sensations in my body, where what I wrote felt true or false. Deep trust in that process has brought me to here, the place of intimate knowledge and awareness of the intuitive process. It is this intuition, this wisdom far beyond the reaches of my thinking brain that everything unfolds from.

I’ve been writing and journaling every day since I was 12 years old. It took time for me to see this pattern and process of wisdom, intuition, and insight because I didn’t run into anyone who told me about it in relation to writing. At 19, I discovered Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. The book sat on a table in the corner of the breakroom at work. It was sheer serendipity. She introduced me to writing practice in that book. I took up the practice, loving the immense creativity and the insights into the things I wrote about. But it didn’t feel the same as journaling.

Writing practice is very different for me than journaling. Both have helped me to know myself better. Both can help you. What are the differences? It’s the way they feel in my body. Writing practice goes hand in hand with journaling. You can write from the same prompt, but my experience is journaling is much less about creativity, much more immediate in terms of dealing with daily life, while writing practice is what you do from a place of creative awareness, still touching into the same moments, but in a different way.

It’s like the difference between slow-walking and taking a train or bus. You see what you see as you go, but one is slow, plodding through, practical while the other is observing from a distinctly different perspective. Journaling is panning for gold…washing away the mud and dirt while vigorously swirling and sifting. Writing practice is what you do with the gold – which is a whole other refining and shape-shifting process. It is less about mud and more about the transformation of the gold.

The gold is buried in those journal pages. If you want the gold, you have to a process your mud first. See what’s swirling around in the pan. Swirl the water, swirl the water, swirl the water, pour off the water. 

I’ve always been a meditator and contemplative in some form or fashion. Journaling is a natural fit for my personality. You may or may not feel that way about journaling for your personality. So often people say “I can’t sit still. My head is so noisy.” Journaling is a perfect place to begin to quiet the mind, where each time you do it, you cultivate more spaciousness in your life.

As a meditator, I learned about the heart-mind, habitual patterns and monkey-mind, consciousness and energy. But journaling is what really sped up the process of cutting through the noise and dissonance in my mind as well as taking notice of the habitual patterns in my life. I share this with you in the sincerest hope you experience clarity and spaciousness much sooner than I did. As I journaled, the meditation and contemplations extended far beyond the cushion into every moment of my day.

Let me just say that every page isn’t some mind-boggling insights – but usually one page out of 4 is. 25%. That’s not bad, right? Sometimes there are pages upon pages of drivel, whining, and obsessive thoughts. And sometimes I get sick of my pity party and cut through – because I can see how long I’ve gone on about a subject. So, don’t think you have to write great stuff. Just write. That’s all. Just write.

Check back on Monday for Part 3 of the Top 5 Benefits of Journaling series. I’ll be sharing these with you every Monday and Thursday.

If you’re interested and ready to take your creative life to the next level, I can’t wait to share with you my upcoming new book “Writing for Creative Awakening.” It contains 6 intensive writing and journaling methods to bring you greater clarity, creative energy, and connection. Crack open your creative life and do the great work you are here to do. More on this soon.

Until next time,