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There may be times when your meditation practice feels like just another habit—something you do, check off your daily task list, and then move on with the rest of your life. While it’s good to incorporate meditation into your daily routine, it’s important that you maintain a mindful quality to your practice—and that isn’t always easy.
Keeping a meditation journal can help you stay connected to your practice on many different levels, and is especially useful if you start to feel like you’re “going through the motions” each time you hit the cushion.
What is a Meditation Journal?
Your meditation journal is a place for you to record what you experience each time you sit (or walk, lie down, etc.). Any old notebook will do, but if you want to add some style or even a deeper sense of the sacred to your journaling, there are plenty of journals available specifically designed for meditation, with entry formats preprinted for you (click here for an example on Amazon). And if pen-and-paper isn’t your thing, you have even more options for keeping a digital journal.
I use Day One, an app loaded with features specifically for iOS, but there is no shortage of journal apps available across all techie ecosystems.
What Should I Write?
The decision of what to write is ultimately up to you. There aren’t any rules you need to follow; the meditation police will not burst through your door if you get it wrong. Start simple. Record the date, how long you meditate, the technique you use, and any brief comments that come to mind…
“My knees ached.”
“Couldn’t get that argument with my brother out of my mind.”
“So absorbed I completely lost track of time.”
You can create longer, more analytical entries if you like, but you don’t want the journal itself to become another layer of hardship or an obstacle in your practice.
Some people create elaborate checklists they can easily tick off after each session. This method tracks specific information and can be useful if you have a phobia about writing, but it can also be limiting and rote. Remember, the idea of keeping a journal is to make meditation feel less habitual!
You can even expand the journaling experience by keeping a double-entry journal, in which you make daily entries in the right-side pages, and use the left-side pages for additional reflective notes as you periodically review your entries.
Or your journal can also become an integral part of your practice by working with the following sequence of steps:
- Meditate for five minutes;
- Journal for five minutes—whatever comes to mind;
- Meditate for five more minutes. Notice how the brief writing break affects your practice;
- Record any final thoughts.
What’s the Point?
Keeping a journal gives you a history of your practice to reflect upon. It enables you to identify trends or patters that might otherwise go unnoticed in your day-to-day routine. In short, it helps you learn more about yourself and your relationship to your practice.
From a neuropsychological perspective, when you write your brain processes information in a very specific way, which helps you remember the experience better and, in turn, connects you more fully to your practice and moves you away from the sense that meditation is just another habit.
And let’s not forget that meditation enhances creativity, so keeping a meditation journal can create a positive feedback loop in which you write to support your meditation, and your meditation bolsters your writing.
The biggest stumbling block to keeping a meditation journal can be the tendency to think about what you’re going to write while you’re meditating. If you catch yourself doing this, try incorporating it into your practice by acknowledging what’s happening (as you would any external thoughts that arise) and moving on.