As I sat there, eyes closed, breathing in and out, repeating my mantra over and over in my head, I couldn’t help but think what a waste of time it all was.
I had started transcendental meditation a few months prior and had diligently practiced it every day since then. The problem was, I just wasn’t getting anything out of it and in fact, I noticed that I had these weird episodes where I would begin to imagine these horrible things like my kids dying or committing suicide.
I can’t say that this was directly related to my meditation experience, but it was a helluva coincidence that all those traumatic thoughts appeared at precisely the same time as my meditation practice. Further, as soon as I stopped meditating, those thoughts went away.
What was going on? I don’t know. Maybe it was my brain’s way of ridding me of toxic thoughts that had built up and were being released. Whatever the explanation, I didn’t stick around to find out. It was much too painful to continue.
Over the years I kept trying meditation in various forms. I would always read literature and data around the benefits of it all. It described a peace and tranquility that I never could quite seem to capture. I read that one book, 10% Happier by Dan Harris and it only made me about 2% happier so I abandoned it. I mean, there was some benefit to meditation, but it just wasn’t enough to make it stick.
Maybe I was doing it wrong, or didn’t give it a fair shot, or just wasn’t consistent enough with it…or maybe - and here’s a radical thought - it just isn’t something that will work for me. I think that’s ok, too.
We sometimes get caught up so much in the things we should be doing in life because they work for other people or it’s what we’re being told, that we often forget that life isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition.
You know what works for me and gives me the same benefits of meditation? Journaling.
I spend about 10 minutes per day writing in my journal. I don’t do it every day, but probably average 5-6 times per week, depending on what I have going on. And I’ll tell you, it is very therapeutic.
I am able to get my thoughts out of my head and into the ether so to speak. The clarity that comes from writing things down has been incredibly powerful for me. I am able to sort out complex thoughts that will ultimately help me solve complex problems and make my life better. These are good things. Helpful things.
I should note that these activities aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. You can do both and should do both if you are so inclined and they help. But, if you are like me and have tried meditation in the past with limited results, give journaling a try. It very well could change your life.
It doesn’t have to be fancy and you don’t have to write pages and pages. It could be on a legal pad or in a word document and be just a few sentences about how you are feeling, what you are working on, problems or challenges you are facing, how your relationships are going, etc. Or buy yourself an inexpensive journal at Target or Walmart or Amazon. The medium is much less important than the message.
Don’t make it a big production. Just let your thoughts flow without censorship. Don’t edit yourself and be honest about what you are dealing with. Write it out and then tear it up if you want. The simple act of writing it out will empty your mind and let the universe take over (if you believe in that kind of thing).
Give it a shot. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results. And if it doesn’t work for you, then ditch it. Try something else. After all, it’s your life and you should do what works for YOU.