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My Meditation Journey and the birth of ‘Dropping In: A Meditation Journal’

My first encounter with meditation began about 15 years ago when I enrolled myself into a 4 week workshop to experience a handful of different approaches including; breath focused meditation, candle gazing, chanting and walking meditation. Something lit up inside me all those years ago, and though I didn’t establish a regular practice until much later, it became the first of many more encounters with meditation sprinkled throughout the following years.

During this time I explored various traditions, completely unconscious of the fact that anxiety was the driving force behind my attraction to meditation, and the catalyst for a spiritual path that has led me to my life’s work. I just knew that when I was turning inward and dropping in, I felt connected to something larger than myself, and an abiding calm at my centre. My “monkey-mind” was ever present, but I felt like I was onto something, something that offered liberation from the torment of an over- active mind.

I would attend a workshop or course and “put it on the shelf”. Then I’d attend a retreat or a class and “put that on the shelf”. Throughout my journey with meditation I would read books, blogs and listen to podcasts, each time putting what I’d learnt “on the shelf” whilst in the days, months and even years in between, I would continue to live in unhealthy relationships and working in jobs that left me depleted.

It wasn’t until many years later that a more mature, yet still anxiety afflicted ‘me’ began to take an interest in Mindfulness and subsequently discovered the 8 week program called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a clinically designed experiential learning program that utilises the ancient practices of mindfulness, meditation and mindful hatha yoga to help empower participants to discover their own inner resources and take an active role in their own wellbeing.

Those 8 weeks and beyond were unlike any other encounter I had experienced with meditation. I was exposed to new ideas and practices which opened my eyes to an entirely new way of seeing, and completely shifted my relationship with anxiety. I can honestly say that mindfulness meditation has ushered me into an embodied relationship with myself, and that it continues to transform how I relate to my inner and outer worlds.

One of the tools I discovered on my journey with meditation, including as a participant in the MBSR program and later whilst undertaking the MBSR teacher training, was journaling. I found this simple yet effective method of capturing my experience following meditation, to be extremely helpful and even transformational in my meditation practice. Journaling helped me to develop greater insight into the workings of my mind and body. I was better able to uncover patterns that were holding me back or keeping me stuck, as well as more easily identify progressive shifts towards healthier ways of being with and relating to myself.

I became interested in reflecting on my experience, and ended up integrating journaling into my meditation ritual on an ongoing basis. To start I would allocate 5-10 minutes following each sit to brain dump into a notebook any moments I could recollect before they were lost. I would first write down the foundational practice elements (date, time, duration, practice type, posture and place) and then jot down what I noticed throughout my meditation. My experience varied each time, and I often noted my state of mind (dull, vibrant, scattered), quality of thoughts (projecting into the future, rehashing the past, ruminating), physical sensations (or just as importantly, lack of), and any emotional tones present.

Now my journaling practice can be anywhere between 15-20 minutes. This varies day by day, however I often find that once I start writing, even on days when I don’t think there is much to note, I end up being able to recall more than I expected. Sometimes I take a broad view noting my Observations together with any Insights and Challenges which can be especially helpful if you aren’t sure where to start, and when experimenting with different types of meditation or trying something new.

Journaling your meditation practice, in my experience, provides greater perspective from which to reflect upon the attitudes I bring to ‘the cushion’, as well as identify any limiting patterns or habitual modes of mind that aren’t serving me. In essence it helps provide the space for me to see what is going on with more clarity, and gives me direction for developing my practice.

To help streamline the journaling process and make it as effortless as possible, I developed a purpose designed meditation journal born out of my own experience and need as a meditation practitioner. Uninspired by notebooks and blank pages, Dropping In: A Meditation Journal is as aesthetically pleasing as it is functional. Synergising creative expression and utility each journal entry prompts the practitioner with foundational practice elements to consider, and for those new to meditation or perhaps just new to journaling, I have thoughtfully included a section at the beginning to help you get started by exploring what I like to call “key areas” of practice.

To get started with your own meditation and journaling ritual, head to my website The Mellow Mind, and if you’re located outside Australia then you can purchase your copy of Dropping In: A Meditation Journal from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

You can follow Danyah on Instagram (@themellowmind) or on Facebook (facebook.com/themellowmindAU).

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