advice, journal, moleskine, reflections, writing

The art of meditative journaling

I’ve journaled since I could. From pink cotton candy books with golden locks to spiral notebooks and leatherbound journals. I stopped writing longhand once I got a laptop, opting to record my thoughts on Word instead, but it never really felt the same and I journaled less and less with each passing year until three loved ones sent me journals for my birthday. There is a difference in writing your thoughts on a glowing screen and pressing a pen between your fingers and watching a blank page fill with your familiar handwriting.  Incase you were interested in journaling I thought I’d share my process.

Method: You must be comfortable with the medium in which you write. Choose something you’ll love writing in instead of what’s on sale. I watch my pennies but when it comes to journaling I buy a journal I’m excited to mark up. My dear friend Tracy sent me a moleskine for my birthday and its now my favorite brand. Pens? Equally important. I use Sharpie fine tipped markers- I love the colors and the way the pen glides along the page but its really about whatever pen works for you. [Not being paid to sing their praises, just love the brands- but should anyone want to shower me with multi-colored pens and journals you will not find any protest here! 🙂]

Content: I don’t limit journaling for only extremely deep and inspirational thoughts worthy of Walt Whitman‘s awe. This was a common hangup for me in the past. It’s so pretty. I don’t want to ruin it with my gibberish. A journal is meant to be used and worn- scribbles, smears and doodles:

My journal topics range from grocery lists, story ideas, questions for the pediatrician, the phone number for the cable guy, to more meditative things- the key for me is to hold no limit on content. By writing anything I want, I am more inclined to keep it near me, making it more likely it will be nearby when a  meditative thought or observation comes to me. Plus its fun to look back at your year in scattered notes of reflection, poetry and reminders for coconut milk because that is how life is, seamless. That being said, I do have a few things I write daily as a practice to encourage gratitude and reflection:

One Sentence Journal: I no longer have the time I had in my angsty teen years to write down the daily minituae of my life but a sentence to summarize the day, or a special part of it, helps you realize life isn’t mundane- because it really isn’t. We just fail to see this in the daily hubbub of life.

Five beautiful things: I do a Three Beautiful Things Thursday but write five beautiful things every day in my moleskine. Studies show people who write down five things they are thankful for on a daily basis have elevated levels of happiness and lower incidences of depression. This practice centers me and helps me realize that despite how bad a day might feel, there is beauty within. And major props to Susan who does this daily on her blog. 

Accomplished Today and Plans for Tomorrow: As an attorney I could define my accomplishments in clients interviewed, opposing parties contacted, my days were scheduled. As a SAHM my days are more unstructured and I run the risk of not focusing on writing, or reading, in favor of cleaning, and I also run the risk of thinking I didn’t do anything of value. While each day feels brief its the stuff life is made of so in an effort to be more purposeful with each day, each evening I write down the things I accomplished from cooking dinner, running, organizing, writing, reading and I write down some goals for tomorrow. Sometimes its as simple as keep eyes open and care for baby on particularly sleepy days, and on some days its more elaborate and hopeful. Still, this has helped me feel and be more productive.

Journaling has been a truly transformative experience for me particularly on the difficult days when its hard to see anything beyond that which is clouding my heart so I thought I’d share my process in the offchance its of benefit to anyone else whose always wanted to journal but never knew exactly how to start or keep it going consistently.

21 thoughts on “The art of meditative journaling”

  1. I started journaling again in 2011.
    Used to do so religiously as a teen.
    Now that I am doing it again, I realize how much I like it.
    My new fountain pen motivates me to write!
    Happy journaling!


  2. A, you can never underestimate the importance of a good pen! I'm glad you have resumed it again this year! 🙂

    Anon- I'm glad it was helpful, thanks for sharing 🙂


  3. Yes, colored Sharpie fine tipped pens are a thing of beauty. I have a bucket of them on my desk (covered with other stuff which is preventing me from USING my desk, but that's another story!)

    Have to say, I love your idea of writing down both what you accomplished each day as well as your plan for the next day. I tend to maintain a running 'to do' list – or several to-dos, but it never seems like I get very far through it, where in fact, I do, it's just I add to it as often as I take away from it. I like your method better, & am going to try it. (Besides which, it gives me a good reason to change pens! To a different Sharpie color! Yay!)


  4. You have some great tips for finding something to write about when you have limited time or can't think of something to say. When I was a little girl, someone gave me a 5-year diary as a gift. The first day, I wrote more than I should have, and then I realized I'd screwed it up and I didn't write in it for a long time. Then I would make the occasional not, but not regularly. Yesterday, my co-worker's daughter excitedly showed me the diary she'd gotten for her birthday, and I told her: Be sure to write in it every day. I had a diary when I was little and I treasure everything I wrote in it. Her mom asked me if I wrote in mine every day. No, I said, and I regret it. Those words and memories are so special now, even the things that I thought at the time were stupid or boring to record. I hope this little girl can learn from my mistakes.

    #104 ICLW


  5. Awesome! I, too, found that “writing” a journal via word was not working at all. I now buy the journals that make my heard dance when I see them, and my pen is the Precise Rolling Ball V5 by Pilot. 🙂

    ICLW #67


  6. I also have a moleskine that I love. However, I struggle with limiting myself to certain content. My moleskine is for my daughter, another is for me, and I have a cheap, little one that I picked up for recording writing ideas. But, I think that they all would be more useful to me (and more often used) if I stopped limiting myself. I also love the one sentence summary idea.

    Question: When do you journal? Morning, night, whenever?


  7. Susan- I figured you'd also be a sharpie addict like myself 🙂 Yes- I have tasks and to do lists but they frustrate me and I feel like I get nothing done- so though I do have those- I do this so that I can actually see myself accomplishing ALL that I set out for.

    Taminar, aw thanks for sharing your story- and- its never ever too late to journal again 🙂

    Maria- that is a very good pen too! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Raising, The journaling that I showed that I do I began doing when W was born and I would sit after nursing and laying him in his crib just to make sure he fell asleep and ddin't sit up ten minutes later and need another pat down- so while I waited I did this- and now its something I can't live w/out doing. I do it every night after putting him to bed in the glow of his bedroom nightlight. But I keep it in my purse, on the coffee table when I get home, I keep it around me while I doodle while we watch TV, etc- its so completely awesome to read back your year and see how you wrote down a recipe and then after that a poem about the weather and then a list of questions for the doctor- its nice because its a great overview of the life you had that yaer.


  8. ICLW

    I journalled for years until I could no longer read my handwriting. How sad is that. My mind seemed to move faster than my hands could write properly. Have you ever read The Artist's Way?


  9. I used to journal on a regular basis, but now share most of my thoughts with my laptop. I always loved the feel of a new journal and (of course, sharpies) then carrying it around, filling it, loving it, and saving it. Storing it away in a box until I decide to 'clean things out' and stumble upon it, take the time to read it and feel like you've caught up with an old friend. Thank you for reminding me what a joy a journal can be.
    I'm stopping by from IComLeavWe.
    Take Care~


  10. a woman my age, lol I used to sometimes feel like my hands can't keep up with my brain- computers have sped up our need to get things out faster I think- I have not heard of the book- do you recommend it?

    Brenna, you really should! Its a good experience 🙂

    Mystic- its surreal isnt it?? Its like time traveling.

    Damita, I'm glad you enjoyed this and found it helpful! 🙂

    Transplanted, aw your description is perfect- catching up with an old friend! Thanks for sharing your own experience with journaling.


  11. Love the “5 things to be thankful for” idea! That would be a good dinner table discussion to have every day. Of course, the way that I cook, I am sure that “this meal” won't make the list!

    ICLW #128


  12. Thanks for sharing this! I too used to journal regularly…and it's now basically non-existent. And I completely agree with the part about choosing the right pen and a nice journal for the job.

    I love the idea of keeping it around for everything! That's definitely part of what hung me up…leaving it in my room to write in “before bed” and also thinking I needed to write BIG stuff. Haha…I'm too tired by the time I crawl into bed!

    I may have to try some of your ideas…


  13. Thanks so much for this post – I've always wanted to journal but stop myself because 1. I'm an awful perfectionist and I wanted it to be 'right' and/or 'pretty' and 2. I convinced myself I didn't have enough time. In the last 2 years I've started keeping notebooks that I write down lists and jot ideas in but regret not doing something daily in them – I LOVE the summing up the day in one sentence idea after all I tweet all the time…so I'm going to try that…and buy myself a nice pen 🙂 Thank you!


  14. What's all these ICLWs? Anyway, I love the idea of the “things I did today and things to do tomorrow” I too tend keep a running to-do list. There are some days(quite frequently in fact) where I feel like I got nothing done.

    I've written in journals/diaries since I was 8 or so. I intermittently wrote in it till I was 20 or so. I recently found my old diary and was reading old entries. It was so much fun! I'll have to start up again. 🙂


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