Posted in Sermons

Sermon: Bodhi Day

This sermon was given on December 8, 2019, at Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cookeville.

Sermon #5

Bodhi Day

December 8, 2019

Happy Bodhi Day! This day, Rōhatsu in Japanese, is the Mahayana and Zen Buddhist celebration of the anniversary of Buddha’s day of enlightenment, but not all Buddhists celebrate it on December 8. The year of Buddha’s enlightenment is not something agreed upon, but if the date I saw is correct, it is the 2547th anniversary of that day. It’s a low-key holiday, celebrated mostly by meditation. Some Buddhists spend the entire night of Bodhi day in meditation. Some Buddhists decorate a ficus or fig tree with colored lights and strings of beads and three ornaments to represent the three jewels of buddhism: the Buddha, the Dharma or teachings, and the Sangha, or community.

I know that I told you that I was going to change the practice of reading stories to you, but as I reflected on how to present this information to you about what Bodhi Day is, I couldn’t think of a better way to tell you the origin of this holiday than to read you the story out of this little book, Sacred Stories. So, you get a story today. But don’t worry, you’re going to get a brief meditative moment, as well, a little bit later.

Summary of story: The prince Siddhartha Gatauma lived in a palace. His parents protected him from witnessing any kind of suffering, to ensure that he led a happy life. They didn’t let him out of the palace. But he got curious about what was outside the walls, and one day, when he was an adult, he snuck out of the palace and saw the suffering in the world, and was shocked. How could anyone be happy? He decided to leave his family behind and seek the answer. He tried various religious and ascetics paths for several years, but one day, starving, he decided that asceticism was not the way. He came to a huge Bodhi (fig) tree, and sat beneath it, determined that he would not rise until he attained enlightenment. The Master of Illusion, Mara, and his hideous minions, grew concerned that Siddhartha would find the answer to suffering, so they attacked him, coming at him one after another. But Siddhartha’s light was his shield, and they could not harm him, and eventually they ran away. Siddhartha continued to sit, and eventually attained enlightenment and became The Buddha.

This reads as a fable, doesn’t it, with the monsters and sort of Demonic/Satanic Mara coming at the Buddha as he sat trying to attain enlightenment. And of course, it is that, it surely has undergone some mythification in the 2500 years since Siddhartha Gautama was alive. But many Buddhists believe that Mara is not a literal demon in the way a Hindu or those of us who come from a Christian background understand a demon, but that he exists in the mind. He is the mental torments that plague us.

And doesn’t that one fact, that Mara is in the mind, change the meaning of the story entirely? Now, suddenly, we can relate to what the Buddha endured. Because I don’t know about you, but I have mental demons. Buddhism, which loves lists, calls these plagues 5 hindrances: 1) craving or clinging 2) anger or ill will 3) sloth and torpor 4) restlessness, worry, anxiety, and 5) doubt and inner critic. I know you know these demons as well as I do. In fact, a 2014 study at the University of Virginia administered to hundreds of subjects showed something fascinating: We don’t like being alone with our thoughts. Participants were put in a sparsely furnished room with blank walls and no devices or things to fidget with. There was only one thing in the room besides table and chairs: a button that would administer a harmless electric shock to them, if they chose to press it. Rather than sit and think quietly for 15 minutes, the duration of the experiment, the majority of participants chose to shock themselves, even though they’d said before the study that they’d p pay money not to be shocked. The way it’s divided by gender is interesting, as well: 65% of men self-administered shock, compared with 25% of women. So I’m not surprised that for the last several years, 100% of the participants in our Tuesday meditation sessions have been female or nonbinary. That’s an interesting little phenomenon I’ll leave for another day’s study.

But now we imagine the Buddha sitting, swearing that he will stay there until he attains enlightenment. And if you’ve ever spent more than two minutes sitting in meditation, you’ll relate completely to the thoughts coming at him like swarming hordes of multi-headed beasts, because the minute you try to get quiet, your mind tends to go crazy, and you end up saying to yourself, Dude, seriously? We’re thinking that right now? The Buddha’s answer: keep sitting. Stay with it. His light was his shield. His sitting was his battle plan. If you’ve sat and had a cramp in your leg or anxiety that you thought was going to drive you mad, you’ll completely understand the fear that Mara — our thought-demons — is going to KILL YOU.

But the Buddha sat, and he prevailed, and he attained enlightenment. And he gifted the world with this religion/teaching/dharma/philosophy/psychology/practice that can have really positive effects on our lives if we learn how to apply it skillfully, even 2500 years later.

So what is this teaching? I have about 10 minutes to give you the highlights, which, obviously, is not enough, but I’ll be drawing on Buddhism in sermons again and again, so this will give us a good foundation.

As I said earlier, the Buddha loved lists, and there are two that are foundational for the practice. You can’t talk about Buddhism without discussing the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.

Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree with the intention of learning the answer to this fundamental question: Why is there suffering? It could even be said to be the central question of most of our world religions. And he came away with this list to answer that question, which is called the Four Noble Truths.

1. To be human is to suffer. The Sanskrit word for this is Dukkha, and it is commonly translated suffering. But some think it should be, instead, “dissatisfaction.” This seems obvious to us, maybe, but the Buddha’s situation was unique, having been protected from any knowledge of the existence of suffering for most of his life and then going out into the world and being struck by the universal ness of it.

2. The second Noble Truth is that the cause of our suffering is not the event that we’re reacting to, but our reaction to it, our desire. I’ll put that in a practical context in a minute.

3. The third NT is that it is possible to overcome that desire, to change our thoughts about the thing.

4. The fourth NT is the way to do that: the Buddha gave us an eightfold path to show us the way to change our thoughts. Again, more on that in a minute.

So let’s put this in practical, everyday terms. Let’s say you are driving down the road and someone cuts you off. You’re already in a hurry, and a bit anxious because you have to give a presentation when you get where you’re going. So he cuts you off, and you have to slam on your brakes and narrowly avoid an accident. You start telling yourself a story about what an idiot that other driver is, and that people like him are responsible for people dying every day, and that you’re going to be even later now because of him, and it’s going to be hard to focus because you’re all worked up about this near miss. So you go ten miles down the road muttering and swearing to yourself, and then you think, This is NOT helping. It’s having zero effect on the other driver, and I’m just getting myself all worked up about what happened, and I could use my energy more skillfully by thinking about my presentation or even just being in the moment driving so that I can pay better attention, be a better driver, and have better reaction time. You then take a deep breath, settle your hands on the wheel, and try to get present.

The driver in our example had an inciting incident that caused suffering. The suffering could have been momentary, but because they chose to ruminate on it and tell themselves a story about things that they had no actual knowledge about, they suffered for ten miles instead of one moment. Then, they saw that all of this rumination was unhelpful, and instead chose right mindfulness and to be in the present moment, or perhaps right effort and to be thinking about their upcoming presentation.

For our meditative moment, we’re going to find in our recent history an incident that we had a strong reaction to. Get yourself grounded with feet on the floor. You don’t have to close your eyes, but kind of unfocus them in the middle distance, or close if you’d rather. Think about something that upset you in some way in the past week or so, and how you dealt with it in real time. Rather than judging how you dealt with it, think about how your reaction contributed to or eased your suffering in connection with the incident. Is there some way you could have reacted more skillfully?

You’ll notice that I keep using the word Skillful. Buddhism’s dichotomy isn’t sinner versus saint, but usually it’s a foolish person versus a sage or wise person. We don’t look at it as right or wrong, but what would have been the more skillful or useful way to react. You’ll maybe have noticed that Buddhism’s tree of knowledge is a blessing, whereas Christianity’s Tree of Knowledge was forbidden.

If we look back at Buddhism’s Noble Truths, they’re almost a scientific process. Some even speculate that the Buddha built this concept on ancient Indian medicine. The first is the illness, the symptom: suffering. The second is the diagnosis: suffering is caused by desire. The third is the prognosis: it can be healed. And the fourth is the healing.

So let’s meet the eightfold path. The fourth step on the path of noble truth is the Eightfold Path itself. Maybe you’ve seen the eight-spoked Wheel that is one of the few symbols of Buddhism, and the spokes represent this path. Once again, we have some issues with translation. These are often translated: right understanding, right intention or resolve, right speech, right action or conduct, right livelihood, right effort or diligence, right attentiveness or mindfulness, and right samadhi, translated concentration or meditation. And the word “right” might be a bit misleading in this context. We’re not talking about right as in, versus wrong, a moralizing. Few Buddhist sects make rules about what lay practitioners can and cannot do. We could put the word “skillful” here, as well, and say skillful understanding, skillful intention. I could give a sermon on each one of these and expound on them at length, and in fact, the Buddha spent forty years of his teaching discussing these concepts.

But instead of expounding on them, I want to recommend the practice. Whether you do meditation in the context of Buddhism or not, the time you spend on the cushion or doing whatever other form of meditation seems best to you — it can be walking meditation, mantra meditation that has its roots in Hinduism, coloring, dancing, or whatever else places you in the moment and works for you as a focus — it is training. We call it practice because spending those moments teaching our mind to walk away from those demons forms neural pathways that stand us in good stead when that driver cuts us off, or when we run into other forms of frustration, or the bigger catastrophes in life that we don’t have the first clue how we’re going to deal with. This realization hit me one day while I was listening to a Dharma talk about how sitting in meditation is great training for those sleepless nights when your mind is spinning constantly on everything and nothing. A light bulb went on. OH, that’s what meditation is for! It’s brain training! And when we’re suffering we can sit with those four Noble Truths and and name, diagnose, prognose, and cure — or sometimes, maybe just ease — the suffering.

In each sermon, I try to offer a blessing at the end of it. This week, as a way to celebrate Bodhi Day, I’d like us to offer the blessing together in the form of a Buddhist Metta meditation. I know I’ve talked about Metta practice before, and you’re probably familiar with it in one of our hymns, but I thought we would walk through one together as both blessing and mindful moment this morning. So here’s how this works: you don’t need to close your eyes, but try to feel the resonance of each sentiment as you say it. You can look at the screen as you follow along, but do ground yourself with both feet on the ground as normal for our meditative moment.

Generally in Metta practice, we think of three to five sentiments of good will, and then we offer them, first to ourselves, then to a dear one, then to an acquaintance, then to someone it might be challenging to offer loving-kindness to, then finally, to “all beings.” Normally in meditation this is done silently, but we’re going to speak these sentiments aloud this morning.

May I be gentle with myself.
May I forgive quickly.
May my suffering be eased.

May you be gentle with yourself.
May you forgive quickly.
May your suffering be eased.
(X3)

May all beings be gentle with themselves
May all beings forgive quickly.
May the suffering of all beings be eased.

My friends, may you go joyfully into your week and the season.

Sources/Further Reading:

U of V Study
Sacred Stories: Wisdom from World Religions

Gil Fronsdal Zencast Dharma Talk about the Four Noble Truths

Posted in Big Questions

This is My Buddha

I’d like to tell you the story of my Buddha. This Sunday, I’m giving a sermon on Bodhi Day, the anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment. So I’ve been sitting with my Buddha a bit this week, thinking about my journey as a Buddhist and meditator (among, of course, other things).

First of all, he was a gift from my friend Cole, who happens to be Pagan, not Buddhist. I thought initially I would repaint him, but I haven’t done that. Yet? I may still. But I like him as he is, too.

The important thing to note here is the rock he is holding. I found this rock on the shores of Lake Erie when I went to see my parents after my brother committed suicide in 2017.

After Anthony died and I rushed to get a plane ticket and get home for whatever funeral arrangements had to be made, as the plane circled to land and I saw the lake, tears suddenly flowed. I don’t like crying in public places. Disembarking a plane wasn’t a comfortable place to cry. But the lake holds a lot of memories, and my brother at the heart of a lot of them. Dad had a boat out near the islands (Kelley’s, Put-in-Bay, etc.) and on the weekends he had us, when the weather was good, we would go out to the boat and spend the entire weekend on it, fishing, swimming, visiting islands, sometimes just tooling around. So many memories.

I live now in land-locked Tennessee, and there are lakes, but nothing like Erie. When I landed and my dad picked me up, the first thing I said was, I want to go to the lake. So mom, dad, my aunt, and I went the next day.

When we got there, I wandered away from the others and sat by myself on the rocks with the wind whipping through my hair, crying. Erie doesn’t have an enchanting salt air smell like the ocean does. It smells like fish. But it’s a smell I love. Eventually, I returned to mom and dad, and pulled out my phone and put on “Sailing” by Christopher Cross, which was sort of our on the boat anthem. Dad cried. I cried. It’s good to cry together sometimes, even if it is public.

Finally, I strolled along the sandy part of the beach and picked up a couple of rocks. This one was the smallest, the smoothest. It was perfect, really. And then, in my carry-on bag on the way home, it cracked in half.

I kept it anyway. In fact, somehow it seemed more significant, cracked, than the other stones that stayed perfect in my bag.

I didn’t find comfort in the story that my brother is in heaven, and my Jehovah’s Witness parents couldn’t even say with certainty that he would be resurrected to live with them in their New System/Paradise. Instead, I found my comfort in Thich Nhat Hanh’s book No Death, No Fear. This is among the many passages in it that comforted me and still comfort me:

“When I make a pot of oolong tea, I put tea leaves into the pot and pour boiling water on them. Five minutes later there is tea to drink. When I drink it, oolong tea is going into me. If I put in more hot water, making a second pot of tea, he tea from those leaves continues to go into me. After I have poured out all the tea, what will be left in the pot is just spent tea leaves. The leaves that remain are only a very small part of the tea. The tea that goes into me is a much bigger part of the tea. It is the richest part.

“We are the same; our essence has gone into our children, our friends, and the entire universe. WE have to find ourselves in those directions and not in the spent tea leaves. I invite you to see yourself reborn in forms that say you are not yourself. […]

“You do not have to wait until the flame has gone out to be reborn. I am reborn many times every day. Every moment is a moment of rebirth. My practice is to be reborn in such a way that my new forms of manifestation will bring light, freedom, and happiness into the world.”

One day I was rearranging the altar where I meditate each morning, and I set my Buddha at the center. I realized that he was holding his hands as if he was holding something. I looked down on the shelf and there was my broken rock, the broken pieces of me. I gently placed them into the Buddha’s hands and trusted that if I sit there and practice looking deeply, I will see that the broken rock is both the same as it has always been and that it will never be the same again.

Posted in Big Questions

I’m sorry… Thank You

Hawaiian Volcano. Photo by Marc Szeglat, volcanoes.de

My meditation this morning left me with tears streaming down my face. It was a practice called Ho’oponopono, a practice of indigenous Hawaiian healers and shamans, and something I want to work with more. Here is the practice, a sort of mantra:

I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.

In the version I practiced, as part of Davidji’s 30 Days to Rebirth course on Insight Timer, the meditator imagines themselves as a child. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you. Then as a young adult, an adult, recently. Then imagining another person. I’m sorry, Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.

When I arrived at the last portion of the practice (which I think I will expand to make it more metta-style when I do it myself, maybe more on that later), my mind went immediately to my brother Anthony, who committed suicide in 2016. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.

I cannot ask his forgiveness any longer, and even if he was alive, I don’t think it’s a conversation he would have wanted to have. But it’s a conversation I can have with him now. I’m sorry that when you needed me, when everyone you loved was cutting you off, that I said okay to that practice and hurt you. They told me it was the loving thing to do. How can cutting someone out of your life ever be the loving thing to do? I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.

And back to myself, for doing the cutting off: I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.

There’s so much to process here.

And as I journaled about this, I have shifted my practice of gratitude to a practice of delight. What, in this heavy but necessary moment, could I call a delight? I wrote this:

Delight: How about this? Crying. It is a thing I have always hated. I hate the not-in-control-of-myself feeling, especially in front of other people. But my grief — for Anthony — taught me that catharsis is important and needed, that repressed tears will weigh down your soul to the point of sickness, even to the point of death. I promised myself then, grieving, that whatever comes, I will let it come, and then let it go.

Did I ever see my adult brother cry? I remember when he was really little, and he would cry. My grandfather told him ‘Toughen up, be a man,’ and mom got mad. He’s not a man, she said, he’s a little boy, and there’s nothing wrong with tears. Which message did he internalize? Which one did I?

My Aunt Betty was famous in my family for her ability to cry gracefully. It was, mom and I said, because she didn’t bother trying not to cry, she just let the tears flow, and we (mom and I) would say she was beautiful, crying, and wish we could be beautiful crying too, and not resist it.

This morning in meditation I was beautiful crying. I did not resist it. In meditation — alone — I can let the tears flow, feel them drip from my chin, and feel deep gratitude for the way they wash through me like a summer storm and leave me feeling cleansed and purified. A little more whole.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Sky In My Spoon

Spoon Moon Clouds Sun Cup Photo Montage Sky Star

This morning at breakfast, I noticed the sky in my spoon.

I guess this requires some back story. Like many people, I have an off-again on-again relationship with eating well. I do well for a while, fall off the wagon, then get back to it again. I track it for a while, lapse, decide I hate tracking. I’ve never been a fad dieter — that’s my mom — but it’s so much easier to just eat whatever comes along, slap something on the table when it’s you that’s responsible for what’s on the dinner table…  if you eat at the table at all.  Right?  When I decide to eat “right,” I simply choose to eat clean and eat things in moderation.

I’ve been in an off-again, off-the-wagon phase since vacation and starting college (did I mention starting college? I guess that’s a topic for another post).  And then last week I had an IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) flareup at the same time as a cold, and that was no fun.  Okay, back to the wagon.

But this time, I decided I’m not going to worry so much about what I eat, as how I eat. I’ll wager you’re like me and most of the time when you’re eating, you’re also doing something else.  Surfing the web, watching TV, reading. Talking to another human kind of counts and kind of doesn’t.  It definitely does count if there is another human present and you are both doing separate things at the same time while also eating. Don’t do that.  Look at your loved ones once in a while.  Across a table is a good time.

Anyway,  this time I decided not to “diet” or even “eat better/clean/whatever.”  I’ve been exploring the benefits of mindfulness and meditation in so many ways, and I thought that this time around I would change only one thing:  I will eat mindfully.  I will really think about whether I need that ice cream and whether I know what’s in it. If I’m unwilling to sit still and savor that thing I think I’m craving, did I really want it? Or did I just want something to mindlessly shove into my face to fill a different need? Am I actually hungry? If not, why am I eating?

A long time ago I came across something in a Thich Nhat Hanh book about mono-tasking. About taking the time to do what you’re doing and paying attention.  I played around with that for a while but I discovered that it was really hard for me to just eat when I was eating.

Last time I was at McKay used book store I picked up a book called Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays, MD.  I’ve barely started reading it, just the last day or so.  The irony is that I was sorely tempted to read it while I had breakfast. Heh.

But I know how to be mindful.  So this morning while I was making my breakfast, which was a bowl of bulgur hot cereal with dried cranberries a sprinkle of granola, slivered almonds, raw milk and honey, I paid attention to everything. It’s 25 steps from my bedroom to my kitchen. My refrigerator could use cleaning. I filled the bowl about one third with the cereal. Honey is beautiful, I love transparent things that catch the morning sunshine coming in my kitchen window. Cold, clear water readily available from a tap in my house, that also is a miraculous thing, have you ever thought about that? Not to mention ice. Imagine an ancestor even three generations back plopped into the middle of your kitchen. We have running pure water we don’t have to go anywhere for, and lights with the flick of a switch, and ice.

I sat down to eat. I actually set my meditation timer with background music, because I wanted to remind myself not to just let my mind wander, but focus on where I was and every sensation.  Eating is the only time, really, that you can mindfully indulge every sense:  smell and taste come into play in a way that is much more powerful than at any other time, and you can notice the sensations of the food, the sound of your crunching and any other sounds that are in your environment.  Sight really starts to take a back seat, which is why your brain tries to get bored and find other things to do, because sight is so prominent for most of us all the time. Entertain me.

Maybe that’s why I noticed, as I sat at my desk in my dimly lit bedroom, that as I lifted my spoon to my lips, the sky outside my window was reflected in it.

I’m pretty sure that if I was reading that book, or anything at all, I wouldn’t have noticed that.  Here’s an excerpt from John Kabat Zinn’s foreward to the book:

“But just like Blake’s grain of sand and his wild flower, you can see the entire world in one raisin, hold the universe and all of life in the palm of your hand, and then, of course, in your mouth too, as it soon becomes a source of nurturance on so many different levels, energy and matter and life itself enlivening and replenishing the body, the heart, and the mind.”

So it was pretty poignant that the sky was in the handle of my spoon and all the world and all five senses were in the sweet goodness at the end of it as I put it in my mouth.

I’m convinced that mindfulness is the answer to everything.  Even if my IBS isn’t cured, or if I don’t lose weight, I stepped a little nearer to the center of being this morning while I was eating breakfast.  And if those two things do happen, that’s a win all the way around.

Try it.

Posted in Uncategorized

Running Into Life

runningrain_112014My friend Susan is a runner.  It is so much a part of who she is.  Yesterday she was speaking of running in the rain.  She said, there’s something uncomfortable about going from dry to wet, but once you’re there, it’s amazing.  You’re splashing through puddles like a child, and you feel exhilarated.  She said drivers go by and yell “It’s raining!” and she yells back, “You’re missing it!”

Sometimes life connects dots for us in strange and unpredictable ways.  This morning I found a guided meditation called “Exploring the Wilderness of Discomfort,” and I thought of Susan.  And doors opened for me.

What if we didn’t avoid discomfort?  What if we pushed past that barrier of initial discomfort, or fear, or hesitation?  What if we lived our lives that way?

I thought of her running, every day, of experiencing every day and every thing it brings her.  Today it is sunny and warm, tomorrow it is raining, the next day there is a dog that runs alongside her.  It might be the same route every day but if we’re there, if we’re showing up, if we’re truly present, life has new gifts to bring us every day.

But we have to get up and get out and live, and run into life.  What are you running away from? the meditation asked.  When you experience discomfort, what are you doing instead of being with that discomfort, what are you escaping to?

There is so much here for me.  I think we as a society have learned to run away from discomfort.  We get the first twinges of a headache or indigestion, we take a pill.  We find someone on the Internet who doesn’t agree with and we “delete” them from our friends list.  We go into a creative endeavor and find that we’re not very good at it, which is uncomfortable, so we give it up, before we have given ourselves a chance to play.

A chance to run in the rain and splash in a puddle.

So I’m asking you today to do something uncomfortable.  Sit with it, push past it.  Don’t grit your teeth and bull your way through it.  Approach it with a childlike, running-through-a-puddle curiosity.  See what happens in your heart.  See what happens in your life.  Maybe it’s raining, but maybe, if you’re driving by, you’re missing something.  See what it is.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Journaling

journalkitty

This is Nin-Nin the journal kitty (among many other talents).  Every morning I have to fold his blankie for him and put it at my writing desk in my bedroom, where he comes to visit and hangs out while I journal.

I started journaling in 2001.  I wish I could say I’ve journaled consistently every day since then but it comes and goes.  I started journaling because of a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and if I had to pick one book that’s changed my life, that’s it.

At the time I had just left Jehovah’s Witnesses and I was in a dark place.  I thought God was going to kill me at Armageddon, but I was so disenchanted with the religion that I didn’t care.  Julia asked me to look again at my concepts of God.  And more importantly, how they related to my art.  Because, she says, all art comes from God.

That might be an unpalatable suggestion to some people and it was to me, at the time.  Jehovah doesn’t care about that stuff, I thought.  But I had to learn that she meant (at least, this is how I feel now) that place of the divine inside you, the thing that is soul, or essence, or truth.

Ah, maybe I’m getting a little deep for a Saturday morning.  The point is, in the last 16 years I’ve come a long way, baby.  I went to my journal to figure out what I thought about everything, because I’d been told for years what I thought about just about everything, and I had to figure it all out for myself again, from scratch.   In the meantime I’ve written the odd poem, a lot of essays, a few articles that were published in the paper, and I have come full circle to writing a novel, now.  I have ideas for other things I want to write.  It’s easy to discount the writing I do on a regular basis.  Over the last couple of years I’ve become pretty consistent and I write in my journal every day.  I put stickers in it and I write in colored pen that you would probably find obnoxious but I love them and I love the process.  I start by documenting where I am in space and time:  what am I making (I am always making), what am I reading, what am I listening to or watching, sometimes what’s in the news, what’s Dictionary.com’s word of the day, what tarot card did I draw today, what are my current obsessions.  Then I just write, sometimes about what happened yesterday, sometimes about how I’m feeling.  It’s the place where meditation, catharsis, rambling and inspiration come together, and I wouldn’t be without it.

Some day I feel pretty sure that I will write a book about my journaling journey because it’s a thing I think everyone should do, and I have a lot to say on the topic.  If you have a hard time with a meditation cushion, it’s an active thing that can get you in a meditative frame of mind without navel-gazing.  If you’re grappling with tough feelings about something (brother’s death, election went very wrong, whatever), this is where you figure it out.  If you’re so tired and bored you can gripe about life.  It’s not for anyone else.  It’s for you. And then it clears out all that junk so that you can open up the channels and let your creativity off the leash, which is the point of The Artist’s Way.  It’s meant to help blocked artists, but it’s done so much more than that for me.

So each morning I sit with my kitty and my cup of tea and from the end of Daylight Savings Time to the beginning, my happy light (oh, I could wax poetic on that topic too!), my colored pencils and my pretty journal and my stickers, and I tell the Universe what’s going on with me.  I have no idea whether anyone besides me will ever care to read them… I like to think my son might, some day when I am gone, but there is a LOT to go through because I keep other journals besides these, and there is a whole big box of them in the closet.  It doesn’t matter though.  I do it for me.

I think you should do it for you, too.