Meditation is a powerful practice on the spiritual path. If you meditate, you will evolve intellectually and spiritually. On this lifelong journey of inner growth we learn constantly. Everyday life and events provide opportunities to apply your knowledge. And you grow in wisdom every single day.
But it’s not always easy to see your progress. Most of the time, you don’t get feedback from family, friends, or coworkers. No one says, “You’ve really improved—how did you do it?” Still, it’s helpful and encouraging to be aware of your progress on the path.
One effective way to recognize your progress is by making a written record. Journal about your insights, experiences, and questions. Copy an inspirational quote for future reference. Then you can refer to it later. Over time, you can see your progress. This can be encouraging. Or it can revitalize your practice if needed.
Keep Your Journal Positive and Inspiring
My Guru says that positive journaling is a tonic for the mind. By restricting your journaling to the good and positive events, thoughts, and actions in your life, you begin to realize that you are Divine.
Yogis believe in the power of thought. That’s why we emphasize the practice of positive thinking and meditation. Thoughts are strengthened through repetition. So we strive to allow only positive thoughts to fill our mind.
Some people use journaling as a way of venting their sorrows and frustrations. Psychologists might advise their patients to write for this purpose. However, for spiritual growth, we should use our journaling as a positive support. Think about it. Today you could write, “I just couldn’t meditate. I sat for five minutes, and I was so restless that I just gave up and went back to work.” Or you could say, “Meditation was challenging, but I managed to sit still for five minutes. Svami says that any amount or quality of meditation is beneficial. No effort is wasted, and I should meditate every day without fail. At least I did that!”
When you review your journal next month or next year—which statement is going to brighten your day? Which one is going to inspire you to continue your practice with renewed enthusiasm?
There are so many styles of journaling. No single method works for everyone. You’ll need to discover for yourself what works best for you and which format keeps you coming back to your journal. Experiment with several styles or methods and then settle on the one that gets you writing.
Following are a few recommendations. These are journals with which I’ve had some success. They are excellent starting points if you’re new to spiritual journaling.
The Five-Minute Journal: The title itself gives you the nudge you need. Everyone has at least five minutes to write. This journal includes an excellent introduction to the principles of journaling. It also explains why it’s such an effective practice. Its pages include prompts, inspirational quotes, and a few lines for daily entries.
The Daily Stoic Journal: This book is based on the Stoic principle of daily self-evaluation. These principles are similar to a yogi’s. It’s the most structured journal that I own. Each week includes a page of Stoic principles to contemplate. The pages are dated and include space for a morning and evening reflection. If you’re already a disciplined journalist—or want to be—this is a good choice.
Moleskine Notebooks: These journals come in many sizes and styles. I use a simple lined version. There are no prompts or dates, so it allows for free-form writing of whatever comes to mind. The style I prefer comes in a three-pack. I keep one in each area of my home in case I need to jot down a passing inspirational thought. The journal only has forty pages. There’s nothing formal—or scary—about these booklets.
An Unconventional Journal
Over the years, I’ve started many journals in blank books. I have a bookshelf filled with blank books containing a few entries in the first pages. The books are pretty, but the pages are empty. I’ve never filled a blank book. However, one system that’s worked for me for many years is sticky notes. I keep various sizes and colors of sticky notes around for quick action. Over the years, I’ve collected hundreds of those notes. Some of them are quotes from books, or from my Guru. Some of them contain my own thoughts. Click here to view a collection of notes from this unconventional journal.
I haven’t always dated or referenced the notes. I wish I had. Occasionally, I want to return to the source of a quote. Searching on my computer sometimes helps me find that source, but often I spend many hours trying to locate it. Although trying to find the source of a quote is always an intellectual adventure, I now include it on each sticky note.
Just Get Started
The spiritual path can be a lonely journey. By journaling, you can be your own best friend, confidant, and cheerleader. It’s a way of keeping company with your best self. You can clarify your thoughts and direct your intentions. It helps you check your progress and stay on track.
Think of journaling as an essential part of your spiritual practices. It can take as little or as much time as you desire. But, as with all spiritual practices, it’s most effective as a daily commitment. Spiritual aspirants meditate every day. Consider journaling just before or after your meditation practice. You’re already quiet and focused at that time. Take another five minutes to add something to your journal.
Are you already a seasoned journaler? What type of journaling do you practice? Do you have any motivational techniques to get us returning to or starting a journal? Please share your suggestions in the comments below.
Chityānanda has been a disciple of Svāmī Gurupremānanda Sarasvatī since 1975. She teaches meditation and yoga as a spiritual path in Santa Cruz, California.
I like that this article is a good reminder for me to start my journal writing. I have been doing “The Stoic Journal” and it’s quite helpful to have to reflect on the moments in meditation and what thoughts I have or about what I have read for the day. I used to write a lot in a journal. I have done journals thoughout my life just as an exercise to express my feelings or writing bits of poetry. This is a good way to get back to that creative expression that I once embraced. Now, I can focus strictly on what experiences I may encounter through my daily meditation practice.
Thank you Svami for all the hard work you have put in writing this blog. I have found the teachings to be practical and helpful.
Thank you for your comment, Nakisa. How wonderful that you’ve had success with journaling in the past! It should be no problem for you to pick up the habit again. Best wishes! Namaste.
I was reading some stoic advice, and it says if you “pick a target” a long way in your future at least you won’t find yourself wandering later on and you may do a lot better than you think. Pick a spiritual target, and you may thank yourself. Make it your own. Bow to your potential.
Thank you, Tony. Journaling is a good way to keep you on the path to your goal. Namaste.
Hi Svami. I start journals then I stop. I bought the stoic journal and I think I’ll give it a try. I often get insights while I meditate. I try to recall these insights but I forget them. I think a record of them will help me remember. I like your Guru’s advice to keep it positive. I see how it’s important to be positive.
Thank you, Dusty. I once overheard my Guru giving advice to another disciple. The disciple had asked him what to do about arising thoughts that seem important during meditation. (To my surprise!) Gurudev told him to keep paper and pen near his meditation seat, then write down such thoughts and return to his meditation. Ever since then, I’ve taken that advice. Rarely does such an important thought come to me at that time, but I’m always glad that I’m prepared to make a note of it. Then it’s much easier to return to my practice without worrying about forgetting. I hope this advice helps you, too. Namaste.
I’ve found Index cards and Day One are also useful journaling tools.
Thank you, Roxie. Index cards have never lost their value, even when apps were created to do the same work. There’s nothing quite like writing with the hand and pen. Namaste.
This is a good reminder for us all. I often use iOS Notes to capture thoughts, quotes, yoga questions for my Guru and observations. Occasionally I will write down how I feel after an event. I don’t do this much, but when I reflect back, the ‘emotional’ note helps me remember how something made me feel ie; relaxed, anxious etc.
Thanks for your contribution, James. Using our mobile devices makes it possible to record thoughts almost in real time. Good suggestion! Namaste.