How to start journaling

The spirit moved through you. You have something you need to get out of you and put down on paper. You picked up a notebook and a pen and sat down to write… and then what? Journaling is a rad hobby, and as simple as it seems, people can sometimes struggle with where to start. Writing is cathartic. It goes hand in hand with yoga and meditation as a template for self-discovery. And as with most of these practices, there really is no right answer for “how” to journal — but I wanted to share some of what has worked for me that can hopefully inspire you to crack open that blank book and use it to unlock what you’re truly feeling.

One of my favorite quotes is from Hemingway…”There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” When I journal, it is personal. It is not my blog. It is not sharing. It is raw, it is primal and it usually is the shit I don’t want to say out loud. Most of the time I don’t make sense, I’ll just write words over and over and over until something calls out to my subconscious and it gets up-leveled into a full thought. It is a processing tool, so let the words pour onto the paper. Don’t stop them and try to make them pretty or make sense. Let them spill out and see what shape they create. Usually I am journaling about things I am feeling — I will almost always write when I’m frustrated so that I can make sense of things. The short journey from my mind to my notebook gives a much-needed sacred pause to situations, some space for reflection. Typically I’ll pour everything out — not picking the pen up from the paper — and write for 5–10 minutes. Then I’ll go back and have a read, asking myself is this real? Is this true? Is this HONEST? Our minds have a funny way of shaping our reality. When you journal, you’re able to take the noise in your head outside of you and look at it more clearly, from a third party perspective.

But let’s say you’re not heated. That you just want to write to get to know yourself better. A lot of people like the idea of morning pages — keeping a journal by your bed and writing a few pages upon waking so that you capture that golden hour of mind magic. I’ve attempted this countless times and have ultimately come to the conclusion that I need some caffeine before I have any ability to pick up a pen. I prefer the idea of writing whenever you feel called to do so. Maybe over a cup of coffee, maybe before bed. And you can play with prompts for your journaling so that you have something to sink your teeth into. Some great cues might be “what do I really want?” or “what’s true for me?” I also like “who am I really?” “I am inspired by…” and “I’m grateful for…”

The key for any of these is to write down whatever comes up for you and let the responses flow on the paper without judging your own answers. This is for no one else but you! If you’re inspired by Kim Kardashian, write that shit down! Let it run free! Respect your journal as safe space to get to know yourself — your beautiful and perfect TRUE SELF. This is all for you, unadulterated by shame or doubt. This is your truth and it is awesome.

As with any personal development stuff, the biggest hurdle is fear. Fear of being judged, fear of someone reading it, or even bigger — fear of who you really might be. This is the work. This is the work we are all in all the time. Overcoming the fear. And maybe, instead of focusing on the fear, can you imagine a world where we are all truly self-expressed? Where we are all happy and free?

One of my favorite yoga chants is lokah samastah sukihno bhavantu. Remember what it means? May all beings everywhere be happy and free. You deserve all of this. You deserve freedom, happiness and access to your truest, deepest self. We all deserve it. This is where the magic is. So go write a little, go bleed a little, go feel something new. There is gold inside you and it’s time to go digging.

photo cred @matt_roy www.mattroyphotography.com