ZEN TIP TUESDAY #27
Journaling Zen is our topic for today and I’m very happy to welcome Patricia Doyle (‘Pat’) to the blog for Zen Tip Tuesday. Pat writes about journaling and how this practice has helped her to transition from a busy corporate job to retirement. I’ve met Pat (virtually) via the blogosphere and more specifically via Sue and Leanne‘s ‘Mid Life Share the Love’ (#MLSTL) linky which is every Wednesday. As well as being a blogger, Pat is an Author! She has very cleverly written a book based on the same name and ethos as her blog ‘Retirement Transition’. There’s a link to where you can learn more about that (and purchase if you’re interested) later in this post. You may also like to read this interview that Sue of Sizzling Towards 60 and Beyond did with her about her book.
If you would like to contribute your very own ‘Gem of Zen’ as part of the Zen Tip Tuesday series please go here to find out how (you might also like to visit all the Gems of Zen we have so far). I would love to hear from you!
A BIT OF BACKGROUND
When I entered retirement, I spent quite a bit of time exploring what retirement was all about, including reading Julia Cameron’s book ‘The Artist’s Way‘. I picked up the original book because it was about releasing your creativity (something I was trying to do in retirement) and it was highly recommended to me. It was actually one of over 40 books I read in my retirement research mode! I’ve since read a few of her other books including the one specifically about retirement. If you have not explored her work, I encourage you read one of her variations on The Artist’s Way – either the original one or one focused on the work place, retirement, parenting, or daily discovery.
One of the tools Cameron encourages (in all the variations of The Artist’s Way I’ve read) is “morning papers”. As I try with all new habits, I committed to trying it for a month. I bought a beautiful journal and got an accountability partner – I told my husband I was going to do this every morning! Yes, he asked me a few times that first month, “Aren’t you writing in your journal this morning?” But after a month, I was hooked. I’m still using this tool 4 years later, almost every day and I am now into my 8th morning journal book.
WHAT MY MORNING JOURNALING HAS BECOME
It’s an active meditation, part of my positivity practice, and a bit of life coaching to myself.
I’ve always liked to write and this journal writing is my time to think through things – time to work through frustrations and resentments, time to de-clutter my mind, time to probe deeper into my own psyche about my limiting beliefs, or time to react to something I saw or read.
It’s free flow writing. I don’t worry about grammar or spelling or even writing a good sentence structure!
It’s a stream of consciousness, wisps of whimsy, celebration moments, and sharing of worries. It’s about what I like, dislike, wish, need, hope, plan, complain about, pray about, and sometimes regret. I allow my disputing, disparaging negative voice to speak and my positive, action-based voice to declare intention.
EXACTLY WHAT DO I JOURNAL ABOUT?
I almost always look back at what I did yesterday, what I said I would do and didn’t, and what I might do today. Often I then relate my activities to my lifestyle retirement vision, and feel a sense of accomplishment. (Yeah, me! – celebration moment) Or I can boost my activation energy to get something started. After multiple days of writing it down (I will do X today), it does seem to get me moving on something!
I regularly do emotional monitoring, clearly articulating how I’m feeling. Not just good or bad, but more detailed words like enthusiastic, celebratory, positive expectation, peaceful, contentment, awaiting, disappointed, discontentment, uncertainty, annoyed, resentful, unworthy, hurt, incompetent or many others (I’ve created a list I keep in the front of my journal). I find it helpful to get clear on my emotions, and if they are staying in the negative, take active steps to boost myself up (practice positivity).
I regularly do a body scan – how am I feeling head to toe. This has helped me pinpoint the beginning of issues that I can then talk to my doctor about. Or remind myself to reenergize my stretching/physical therapy, or watch more carefully what I’m eating.
On any random morning I might:
- Note down a dream or segments of a dream I’m recalling from that past night. And then I ask my inner voice/subconscious what it might mean, and free-flow write the answers. I’ve often been intrigued with uncovering some worries I had not articulated to myself.
- Review my Jolts of Joy List. If I’m feeling a bit down, frustrated, or emotionally exhausted, I’ll pull out one of these lists that has little things that bring me joy. I pick one thing and plan it for that day. Some of the things on that list: walk & talk with a friend, use my coloring book, eat a favorite food, organize something, an afternoon nap in the sun, chop up fresh veggies for dinner, or spend time in the garden.
- Add to my Gratitude List or just write things I’m grateful for. This is another one for when I’m feeling a bit down, frustrated, or emotionally exhausted. It always makes me feel better!
- Use a calendar prompt to stimulate writing. Here are some of the recent calendars from Sue – Aging Well in August, or Jennifer – Tune up in September, that I’ve enjoyed using.
- Review my vision board and how I’m feeling about achieving that vision. I do have my vision board right by my morning journaling chair. And that chair is by a window, which gets great morning sun in the winter months.
- Jot down thought for blogs, using blocking notations or underlines so I can easily find them. This post in fact began in a morning journal entry.
Just by journaling in the morning, I also get a feeling of accomplishment on doing something. I wrote in my journal!
My morning journaling has become a well-loved habit – it grounds me and inspires me. It’s my daily zen.
In July 2014, Pat retired from a 30+ year corporate career with the one company. This timing was a few years earlier than planned, as a highly attractive, early retirement package was offered. Given the timing and her work-focused lifestyle, she did not have a plan in place for what came next. She’s a planner by nature, so the days after the retirement moment became a journey of learning about transition, a journey she is still on.
Part of the transition was discovering what she wanted to do. She uncovered a desire to write, a love of research & synthesis, and a realization that she liked to advise/teach others. This all merged into the creation of her Retirement Transition blog and then her book (available from Amazon), also called Retirement Transition.
After blogging for 4+ years, she continues to love the connections with other bloggers on similar transition journeys from full-time career to what comes next here in “mid-life”. She continually learns from others – through their blogs and comments.
Pat currently lives in the Mid-west (Cincinnati) with her also-retired husband and their Lab-mix dog, Taylor.