There were (and will be) times in life when ‘gratitude’ feels hard. I guess it’s only human.
Despite knowing the benefits of gratitude, we also know that knowing what to do is one thing, while actually DOING IT is another thing. It can be hard to feel grateful when we’re going through rough patches, although this is probably the time when we need the ‘attitude of gratitude the most’.
So, during those times when I sit down to write my gratitude for the day and it feels somehow difficult (or I keep repeating the same things to be grateful about without really feeling it), I do this instead:
I begin by acknowledging the things that (I think) don’t go well in my life at the moment, and then I work with these prompts in my journal (or say these things in my mind):
1. “But at least, at the moment, I don’t have to worry about _______. So, thank you, for _______.”
2. “But, maybe it’s not THAT bad, because at least I _______. So, I’m grateful for _______.”
3. “However, today I can still _______. So, thank you for _______.”
I realize that framing my ‘gratitude’ this way, makes it feel easier. At times, it even feel more genuine, more relevant, and more immediate.
Let’s see one of those prompts in action:
“My flight is delayed for 3 hours, but maybe it’s not THAT bad, because at least I can spend my time working from here. Thank you for I still have work! And that my laptop is fully charged. And I’m grateful for this waiting room, with its free Internet access, with the AC working well, the plugs for recharging, and oh, thank you for those coffee shops nearby; so I can grab a cup of latte when I want. Wow, I’m grateful that I have more than enough money to buy a cup of latte…”
I find these prompts helpful to let me ‘roll’ into the ‘attitude of gratitude’ even if I started out by acknowledging my fears, worries, or difficulties.
As I write/think the next sentence, and the next, and the next, I can feel how each one gives my mood a tiny uplift.
>>> Click here to download my morning journaling prompt <<<
I have always considered journaling as a private and intimate practice. I have always been writing in my journals since my childhood days, writing my thoughts, feelings, and dreams. It wasn’t until recently that I started to share some pages of my ‘art’ journal online… and I have been lucky enough to find a community of kind people who are interested in journaling as much as I do.
However, I wouldn’t deny that being exposed to many people who journal in many different ways, with different supplies and notebooks and favorite tools is a slippery slope. If we’re not careful, it’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap. Suddenly, we are confused about our ‘journaling style’. We don’t have the right notebook. Or pen. We don’t have those lovely stickers or stamps. Suddenly, we want more, we want to buy more. Journaling practice becomes a burden, a reminder that we’re not good enough, or we don’t have enough.
I am not immune to those feelings, of course. However, I tried to ‘catch’ myself from time to time, by asking some questions that can help me gain clarity about my journaling practice and my personal connection to it. After all, journaling is a personal journey. We need to find something that feels good and kind, something that works for us.
So, I’d like to invite you to join me in this 9-minute journaling practice to ask ourselves some questions about journaling. I hope, this can help you gain more clarity about your connection with your journal and your journaling practice.
As much as I love to share some pages of my daily/art journals on social media, I also have some private journals that I keep strictly for myself. For me, it’s about finding balance in what you can share and what you can’t, and about not having to feel stressed or burdened by your journaling practice.
Journaling should be something relaxing and soothing, don’t you think?
Do you have any similar experiences? I would love to hear from you 🙂
We’re not here to find our voice, because we have never lost it. Maybe we forget about its existence, maybe we rarely make a sound, maybe we choose to whisper. But we have always carried that voice within us since the beginning of time, like that stillness at the bottom of the ocean. And we will always carry that voice along our journey until the end of time, like that crippling second when the last layer of mist disappears, revealing everything we have accidentally missed.
We are here to find the song for our voice.
Not just a random song, because there are far too many songs out there, and some are way out of our vocal ranges, and some always come out off-key as we sing it, and some have been claimed or sung much better by others and we could not make it ours no matter how hard we try, and some… well, we just don’t like the music.
We are here not only to find our voice or our song, but we are here to find THE SONG FOR OUR VOICE.
It’s like something destined, a perfect match, something that vibrates your vocal cords naturally, effortlessly, flawlessly, and as you strike that first note, it would submerge you under the rolling waves of sound you’ve never thought could’ve ever st(r)eamed out of the depth of your soul.
To start, read some random pages of your journal(s), quickly. Start from the first page, then randomly flipping it to the next pages, until you arrived at your latest entry. Just skim those pages for about 10-15 minutes.
1. the choice of words
What are some of the words that pop into our mind or catch our eyes as we’re reading our journal(s)?
Write them down.
What kind of words are they? How do these words make us feel?
Notice some words that make us feel happy, uplifted, and warm, and underline these words with our pen.
Notice some words that make us feel angry, sad, or down.
Which set of words do we use more often when we’re talking to ourselves or thinking about our life?
How can we converse better with ourselves by paying more attention to our choice of words?
2. the theme of our journal(s)
If there’s a one-word theme for our journal(s), what would that be?
How do we feel about this theme?
Why do we think our journal(s) is concentrated around this particular theme?
How does this theme reflect the theme of our life?
What would life look like if we’re following this theme?
What would life look like if we change the theme?
3. the ones on repeat
Find the top 3 things that appear in our journal(s) repeatedly, over and over again.
What are they?
A particular person?
A particular issue?
A particular dream?
Why do we keep talking about these 3 things over and over again?
What are their significances in our lives?
What do these 3 things represent or symbolize?
If we can rewrite these 3 things, how would we rewrite them to better fit our narratives about how we’d like our life to look/feel like?
What would you pack to go on an inner journey; wandering to the deepest part of yourself you’ve long forgotten, a strange terrain and unfamiliar territory you don’t even know existed; crossing that bridge between memories and things buried underneath—a magical place from where your soul is calling you; have always been calling you?
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
INTUITIVE JOURNALING FOR SELF-DISCOVERY
During my university days, I bumped into WILD MIND by Natalie Goldberg, a book about writing for writers. Little did I know that this book would change my life.
It is from this book that I got introduced to free-writing, a technique to beat procrastination and inner critic by performing a timed writing practice and just write as fast you can, without stopping, without thinking, without editing.
This technique allowed me (as an aspiring writer back then) to fill notebooks upon notebooks with dialogues, characters, story ideas, descriptions, settings, anything. All in all, these notebooks have become my endless source of writing inspiration.
Since I have a habit of writing journals (since I was 6 years old), I decided to experiment by using the same technique to document my days, thoughts, and experiences. I would grab my journal and write as fast as I could (usually in bed), and poured whatever thoughts that crossed my mind until I was tired.
It wasn’t until 11 years later when I found myself studying and practicing meditation, that I connected the dots.
One day, I gathered all my journals from the last 11 years and read them again: all those pages filled with tears and laughter, angry scribbles, and joyful handwriting. Amidst all those chaotic scrawls, I found messages, words, or sentences that jumped out of the pages because they sounded so ‘foreign’. Not in a bad way, but in a way that surprised me. “Did I write this? How was it possible that I came upon such knowledge, such wisdom, such revelation?”
Rereading my journal pages throughout the years allowed me to discover something new about myself. It gave me the ability to connect the dots: why I have certain fears, why I hate my body, why I have certain beliefs about money or success, why I have a significant amount of self-doubt, why I do not want to show my weaknesses, why I have the tendency to be a people pleaser.
The insights I got about myself and my life from reading those journal pages were breathtaking!
From this moment on, I started experimenting and combining the things I’ve learned about meditation, mindfulness, and self-development with Natalie Goldberg’s free writing technique. I used this combined technique to fill my journal pages: to find out more about myself, to make decisions, to find some root causes of my problems or beliefs, or at times, simply to clear my mind. I called the practice “intuitive journaling” because I believe that when we’re so deep in our writing or journaling practice, our intuition can speak to/through us.
Intuitive journaling helps you to explore your inner wisdom and intuition through writing and journaling. The aim is simply to peel the layers of your own lives and listening to the messages it delivers. — Hanny
A few years ago, I started sharing this practice with my close circle of friends, and through my social media accounts. Invitations to facilitate semi-private workshops followed right after, where I led participants through an intuitive journaling practice.
Major life (and location) changes that happened last year, however, made it difficult for me to set a fixed schedule on when I would be able to facilitate another intuitive journaling workshop. Thus, this year, I decided to bring these workshops online. I will share the tips, techniques, prompts, practice, stories, and sessions about intuitive journaling so you can do it yourself, from wherever you are, whenever you feel the need to do it.
WHAT WE’LL NEED
A space to write; ideally where you won’t be interrupted. A pen or pencil or any other writing tools that you like, will allow you to handwrite really fast.
A journal/book is recommended, but a piece of paper is okay, too. You do not want a notebook that is too expensive or too precious, because you’ll handwrite in it fast and the results will be chaotic. Well, it’s going to look like a mess (a beautiful mess nonetheless); but you can rewrite some insights or passages you’d like to keep in a nicer notebook later.
A kitchen timer or anything that can function as a timer. A mobile phone can come in handy as it has an alarm clock and a timer, but make sure it won’t be a distraction.
A bottle of water, or tea, or juice. For some reason, intuitive journaling sessions will make you thirsty.
A willingness to follow the steps and rules throughout your intuitive journaling session, an open heart, and an open mind.
EMBRACE OUR SPACE
We can do intuitive journaling wherever we are. We only need to make sure that we can embrace the space we’re in, fully.
This space can be a physical space: our room, the coffee shop, the bus stop, or an office cubicle. Embrace our physical space, by sending gratitude towards the place and appreciating its beauty, no matter how small. Even places that seem ugly or disorderly on the surface are beautiful. If we find it hard to see or feel the beauty of our physical space, we can add some things we consider beautiful to this space: a picture of a loved one, a favorite candle, a faint scent of our go-to essential oil blend, or a green house plant. Appreciate how these things complement our physical space.
This space can also be a mental space. It can be connected to our thoughts, our feelings, or our emotions. Embrace whatever thoughts, feelings, or emotions we are having. Respect these thoughts, feelings, and emotions by accepting them as they are, without trying to judge, label, or push them away. Thank them because they are helping us to understand ourselves more and they help us grow.
“Your space includes your physical, mental, and spiritual space.”
This space also includes a spiritual space: a space for power much greater than ourselves, for our spiritual or religious beliefs, and our inner guidance and intuition. Embrace this space by allowing them to protect and assist us throughout the process, for instance by saying a prayer, chanting sutras, or meditating.
SET OUR INTENTION
The next step is to set our intention for our intuitive journaling session.
We can set our intention by saying, “I set my intention for this intuitive journaling session to … “; followed by our intention.
However, it is best to be open when setting our intention instead of trying to push our agenda.
For instance, instead of saying, “I set my intention for this intuitive journaling session to show me why X would be the right career path for me.”, it is better to stay open by saying, “I set my intention for this intuitive journaling session to show me what I need to know about this career path,” or “I set my intention for this intuitive journaling session to discover the things I need to know about this career path.”
“Be open when setting your intention. You do not want to push your agenda.” — Hanny
Instead of saying, “I set my intention for this intuitive journaling session to show me how I can get into a relationship with X.”, it is better to say, “I set my intention for this intuitive journaling session to show me how to move forward,” or “I set my intention for this intuitive journaling session to show me what I desire from a relationship,” or “I set my intention for this intuitive journaling session to show me what would I do if I love and respect myself.”
By being open with our intention, we are allowing ourselves to loosen our grip and flow. When we’re not sure how to set our intention, we can always say, “I set my intention for this intuitive journaling session to show me the things I need to know at this particular moment in life.”
WRITE OUR THOUGHTS
Set our timer to 5 minutes.
For 5 minutes, watch and follow our thoughts and write them down as fast as we can. Write them down as they are, as strange as they are, as random as they are, as weird as they are, as chaotic as they are.
Our task is simply to watch and record these thoughts by writing them down. We do not label them, judge them, analyze them, or question them. We allow them to appear, we notice them, and we write them down.
Think of it as a writing meditation. In meditation practice, we learn to watch our thoughts. The practice is not about emptying our thoughts and making it sterile from any thoughts, but it’s more about watching our thoughts as they come, notice their presence, and let them go.
For 5 minutes, follow our thoughts, no matter what comes up, and pluck these thoughts from our minds and write them down in our journal.
“Follow your thoughts as they wander, pen on paper. Follow them wherever.”
The key is to do this practice by writing as fast as we can, without lifting our pen from the paper. Write without pausing, without stopping, without erasing, without hesitating. Move our hands as fast as our thoughts; as they will keep coming and going, and changing, and reappearing.
We may write something like, “I don’t know what to say, I’m hungry, I don’t want to go to work tomorrow, oh, I have to pay my insurance, damn, what is that on the table, why my mind is like this…” Go on. It’s good. Keep writing them down until the time is up.
START OUR INTUITIVE JOURNALING SESSION
Set our timer to 5, 7, 9, or 11 minutes.
We can start our intuitive journaling session by asking an open question related to our situation, or by using some journaling prompts: “Why it is so difficult for me to move on?” or “How can I feel more confident?” or “Why I keep repeating the same pattern in my relationship?” are some sample of questions we can ask to begin our session. When we do not have any particular question, we can select a journaling prompt that speaks to our hearts. Search for “journaling prompts” on this blog to spark some ideas.
Once we have a question or a prompt to work with, we can start our intuitive journaling session. With the question or the prompt in mind, start writing as fast as we can, following the first pop of thoughts, words, or sentences in our mind.
“Ask the question and let your intuition and inner wisdom guide you. Trust the process and stay open.”
Be discipline to simply follow wherever our mind goes, the way we did during our writing meditation practice. When we feel as if we’ve strayed too far, glance at the question or the prompt for a second, then start writing again by following whatever crossed your mind.
Keep our hands moving as fast as our thoughts. Follow that urge to write certain words or sentences even if we think it’s not true, ridiculous, or makes no sense. Surrender to the way our thought and our hand moves. Let things flow and trust our process until the time is up.
When we’re pausing, stopping, or hesitating, we won’t be having an optimal intuitive journaling session.
CREATE OUR MANTRA
When our session is finished, express our gratitude. Thank ourselves for taking this time to get in touch with our inner selves. Then, scan our handwriting on the page quickly, and highlight any words or sentences that ‘jumps’ out of the pages, that instantly catch our attention.
Do not think too much when performing this task. As always, trust our intuition. Do not meticulously hover around one sentence for a long period of time, or consciously trying to choose a sentence that we think will sound great; or smart.
Just follow our instinct and highlight the first few words that stir something inside of us.
If we find a message that speaks to us and lifts us up, for instance Just go for it, or follow your heart, or don’t worry too much. We can rewrite it on a post-it note or set it as our phone wallpaper, to act as a mantra: a reminder.
Keep or repeat the mantra to ourselves as much as we like, or meditate with it until we feel the message resonating in our hearts. When it’s time, appreciate your gratitude for this message, and let it go.
“Certain words and sentences would jump out of the pages of your notebook: your mantra.”
If the things that catch our attention are something that weighs us down or makes us feel tense, for instance, I am so afraid of X or I am not sure I can do this or I hate X, it’s okay, too. Accept that these are the things that have absorbed our attention at the moment.
What we can do next is rewriting these sentences by framing them into an open-neutral question instead. For instance, What would I do if I am not afraid of X, or What is possible if I am sure that I can do this, or What can I do to be better at this?, or How would my life change if I do not hate X?
We do not need to answer this question. This question can be our mantra, too.
Now that you’ve learned the steps of intuitive journaling, if it resonates with you somehow, I would be happy if you give it try. Feel free to reach out and let me know about your experience. Is it difficult or challenging? How do you feel? Do you stop writing midair? What do you find exciting? What surprise you? What do you discover or learn about yourself, your mind, and your memories?
In the next few days, I will be back with more intuitive journaling tips, techniques, and prompts, so you can practice during your downtime or creative hour. Oh, I will also share some journaling prompts via my Instagram stories; so feel free to connect if you’re on the platform!
For the time being, happy journaling!
DISCLAIMER: The content of this post is intended solely as an alternative creative practice and creative expression for those who love writing and journaling, and interested in the topic of self-discovery. The entire contents of this post are based upon my personal opinion and life experience. They are not intended to replace any diagnosis, therapy, or treatment from any qualified health care professionals, and they are not intended as medical, behavioral, psychological, or therapeutic advice of any kind. You acknowledge that you take full responsibility for your health, life, and wellbeing, and for all decisions made by you, now or in the future.
The book plays around with the idea of these 3 main qualities people in creative businesses need to have to establish a rhythm that supports their creative process.
Basically, to optimally and creatively function, creative people need to be:
BRILLIANT + HEALTHY + PROLIFIC
Being all three, we can produce great creative work consistently, in a sustainable way.
However, Henry said that most creatives are characterized by 2 strong qualities + 1 weak quality, providing them with a creativity loophole to fill in.
Which one is your creativity loophole, that needs improvement?
You are PROLIFIC + BRILLIANT
– but not HEALTHY
You are having great ideas all the time, flooded by creative juices, you submit your works on time, even you can stretch yourself to work for more than 15 hours a day. But what will happen?
After a while, you’ll experience a terrible burnout. It sucks your energy, it makes you stressed out. You’re risking your long-term creativity for short-term productivity.
You are HEALTHY + BRILLIANT
– but not PROLIFIC
You have great ideas and your creative juice is flowing, you feel as if you’re having a great work-life balance, you are not stressed out nor burned out, but you just can’t seem to do the things you have always wanted to do or finish the things you have started.
This makes you an unreliable creative.
You produce works only when you feel like it, instead of producing good work consistently. Or you are spending too much time procrastinating, questioning, doubting, and the ship just never sails.
(This is my loophole!)
You are HEALTHY + PROLIFIC
– but not BRILLIANT
You feel as if you’re having a great work-life balance, you are not stressed out nor burned out, and you submit all works on time, you finish what you start, you do the things you need to do, but you are not producing things you can really be proud of.
It isn’t something that stands out, not of really good quality. It is just a tad unimpressive and mediocre. It feels like you’re having the energy to do what you need to do instead of what you can really do.
It is easy for people to forget or replace us when they are not impressed with our work.
“I work my way backward from the end of the novel,” he says, “which is the first thing I know, to what the first chapter should be. By the time I write the first sentence, I have a virtual road map of the whole novel—either in notes or in my head.”
Have you ever felt lost when you’re about to begin writing prose, a story, an essay, a novel? And have you ever thought of beginning writing with your last line instead of your first line?
I feel as if this is something that would not only work for writing but would work nicely in life as well.
Instead of being stressed about how to start, where to go, what to do first, I sometimes sit silently for a while and just focusing my mind on what I would want to see at the end of all this.
Where do I want to see myself at the end of this year?
How would my to-do list look like if I managed to finish all my projects?
What would be the feeling I get from seeing my room clean and decluttered?
What if we can start writing our last line and working backward?
Because as it is in life, sometimes it’s easier for us to see the threads connecting those random incidents in our past from a higher place where we’re standing now: one month later, one year later, three years later.
And suddenly everything seems like falling into place, eventually.
I used to think that ‘self-care’ means taking the time to do the things that will make you feel good. At the time, the first few things that crossed my mind when I heard about self-care weren’t far from instant gratification: treating yourself to a shopping spree, taking a break for vacation, or booking that long-awaited manicure session.
But the thing is, self-care is not about doing things that will make you feel good. These days, I realize that self-care is about doing things that are good for you; even when initially, they don’t feel good.
It’s not only about ignoring what other people do or think but also about speaking up and learning how to be assertive instead of being bitter and bottling up resentment.
It’s not only about quitting a job that doesn’t fulfill you, but also about continuously improving your professional skills and commit to things you’ve agreed to do.
It’s not only about taking a break to pack your bag and leave, but also about staying where you are and do what you need to do to sort out your mess before it inflated way out of proportion.
It’s not only about cutting ties with toxic people but also strengthening your ties with people who have been around for you; as well as finding out how not to be a toxic person yourself.
It’s not only about succumbing to your favorite comfort food, but also nurturing your body with nutritious food that will be good for you. It’s not only about curling up in bed or taking a good rest but also about moving your body and exercising, so you can feel energized and healthy.
It’s not only about buying new clothes, getting a haircut, or booking a massage, but also about learning how to accept yourself, how to let go of envy, and the need to compare yourself with others.
It’s not only about forgiving others who have hurt you, but also about asking forgiveness from people you’ve hurt in the past.
It’s not only about going out on a shopping spree, but also about learning about how you can manage your money better, pay your debts, and start saving or investing for your future.
It’s not only about reaching out to others and allowing them to take care of you, but also learning how to fill up your cup until it overflows and you can pour love back to the ones you care about.
I realized that taking care of myself is going to feel hard, difficult, and challenging at times. Sometimes it’s about facing my fears instead of running away and seeking comfort. Sometimes it’s about admitting that I am not the person I’d like to be and getting myself back on track instead of allowing myself to deviate further from my truth. Sometimes it’s about forcing myself to hit that yoga mat instead of having a nap.
Initially, they don’t feel good. But I know they are good for me in the long run. Some people may say that apart from the ‘feel-good’ aspect, self-care also needs a dose of tough love.
I think it doesn’t need tough love. It just needs love.
“What would I do if I respect and love myself?”
This is the question I ask myself, again and again, several times a day, to remind me that self-care is not something I should do once in a while. In every mundane thing we do every day, we can always find an opportunity to care for ourselves.
Because not all the things that feel good are actually good.
NOTE: From time to time, I turn to you (yes, all of you) when I have no idea about what to write on this blog. Feel free to drop an email or DM me on Instagram if you have any ideas/questions for the blog!
Q: HOW TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS IN OUR DAILY LIVES?
A: First of all, I love this question because it has the word ‘practice’ in it! Personally, I believe that mindfulness is a practice. It’s not a permanent state of being. It’s an ephemeral thing we would need to cultivate on a daily basis with a healthy dose of discipline, patience, kindness, gratitude, and a spark of joy, to keep it alive–the way we would care for a house plant.
Below, I will share the 3 things I do to practice mindfulness on a daily basis. Feel free to adopt these into your life when you see fit.
1. DO ONE THING AT A TIME
Although in various occasions I am proud of my ability to multi-task, to practice mindfulness, I choose to do one thing at a time. To concentrate and focus on one thing–no matter how small or trivial it is: boiling a cup of tea, eating, conversing with friends via instant messenger, planning my day.
The idea is to respect each task or activity on its own and give it its slot of uninterrupted time and attention.
This means to simply focus on eating and enjoying your meals, instead of enjoying your meals while watching Netflix, listening to podcasts, or conversing with friends.
I always find myself capable of finishing a bag of chips or a carton of popcorn effortlessly while watching movies or reading novels. But when I have a bag of chips or a carton of popcorn with me, without any distractions, I realized that in less than 20 seconds, my cravings have been satiated.
Start by selecting several activities each day to practice, and notice how you feel.
2. SLOW DOWN
Everyone has their own idea of ‘slowing down’, but the basic idea is not to be in a hurry–so we can turn off our fight or flight mode. Imagine how you would react to a similar situation–for instance, a traffic jam–when you are in a hurry and when you are not in a hurry.
‘Slowing down’ helps us to get connected to that inner calm inside of us, that is not hurrying, rushing, or buzzing.
This can mean anything from slowing down your breathing to slowing down your car, from slowing down and pause for 10 seconds before you type a comment on someone’s feed to slowing down by taking a break from work. This can also mean talking slower, reacting slower, or walking slower.
3. OBSERVE INSTEAD OF JUDGE
There’s a difference between thinking: “there are unwashed plates piling on the kitchen” and “the owner of this kitchen is lazy and dirty” or “this kitchen is a total disaster“.
When we observe, we see what is. When we judge, we see what we want (or have been taught) to see.
When we observe, the sky is gray. When we judge, the weather sucks–or, on the contrary, the sky looks so romantic. When we observe, that woman skipped the queue. When we judge, that woman is rude, uneducated, someone needs to teach her a lesson or shout at her because that is so unacceptable. When we observe, this city has many old buildings. When we judge, this city is so beautiful.
When we judge something for better or worse, we are sticking ‘labels’ into it based on our histories, our upbringings, our preferences, our experiences, or even our traumas. When we observe, we learn to recognize things as they are; instead of what we think they are.
Next time you’re standing in front of a mirror, or talking to a colleague at work, or even walking around the street, try to notice whether you are observing or judging.
Do you have any tips on practicing mindfulness in your daily life? What are some of the things that become a part of your daily mindfulness practice? I would love to hear from you!