A close friend of mine, a mother in her late 30’s, feels a sudden sensation of ‘the world going round and round’, while waiting for her son’s school bus one afternoon. Next thing she remembers – parents of other kids hovering over, trying to talk her back to reality. Regaining consciousness, she is escorted back to her den, to her existential blackhole: nothing escapes her home. All her anxieties, lists of things to do, expectations to live up to, just about everything had taken a toll on her. They just made themselves home, they had no way to get out.
The blackouts had turned frequent. She joined Sri Sri’s Art of Living, alongside taking medications for low blood pressure. ‘I feel so good, you should try it, too!” she sang to me.
The therapeutic benefits of a meditation course have been proven time and again, but there is not much about the positive changes brought about by the simple act of ‘writing a journal.’
I began writing a journal as an 8-year-old. It may have not lasted even 8 days, given my extreme anxiety and sleepless nights over being spied on by my siblings. Reminiscing the entries, they were mostly a vivid description of my dreams, the ones you see with shuteye.
One was about how I had discovered a particular mountain, just like other climbers had, with no gravitational pull on one side. The people ahead of me, slowly jumped down, giving wings to their ultimate dreams, and were soon floating about in air, maybe 1500 kms above sea level. It’s now or never. I got off too. I became a bird, just gliding real slow all around.
Jotting it all down on those pages was so much bliss: the very act of recalling the feeling of being a bird, talking about my wish to, perhaps someday, set out on a discovery mission for the magic mountain. Also, I can recall it so well as I’d written it down.
Another entry I remember is about how my mother taught me to ‘fly a butterfly like a kite’ while returning from school, and how I instantly rejected the idea, because passing a thread through butterfly wings might be hurting them. The other entries in the little journal may have been imaginary stuff – I can’t recollect any more. All I know is me tearing off the pages and then tearing each page into little pieces – me, the human shredding machine!
Later, I tried again but encountered only false starts. The fear of someone finding my diary lying about minding its own business, reading it and knowing the goings-on in my mind, was too extreme for me.
So, I stuck to blogging – logging on the world wide web. It was not personal anymore. I weaved cryptic words into little poems to express what I was feeling inside. I made fictional accounts of fictional characters, actually telling my story. People read them as poetry and fiction, not a soul knew the stories hidden between the lines. This was fun, but not as liberating.
Your diary can be your road to inner peace. Your diary can be your friend, your philosopher and your guide.
So I stuck to personal diary writing again – late last year, and have been going strong till date. It’s the best part of my day; I look forward to putting pen to paper and jotting down whatever comes to my mind that time.
Therapists have long proven the benefits of keeping a journal, specially after going through trauma you can’t explain to another soul. History is replete with famous people and their diaries, without which we wouldn’t have known their humane side. Inventors, Philosophers, Visionaries, Artists, Shapers of our world have maintained notes or journals of their random thoughts throughout the day. Explorers loved their travel journals while Thinkers loved their book of ideas.
The Anne Frank Diary is a classic window to the joy of journaling. Hiding from Nazis, this Jewish girl all of 12 copes with her anxieties, dreams and aspirations and the eternal fear of being caught, by making time to write the day’s happenings, and her ideas about growing up to be an adult. Her diary may have played the role of a therapist, given the disturbing times she was growing up in and her impressionable young mind.
Journaling is self-therapy. Whatever be your standing in life, it can always be tackled by writing away your fears and worries, your missteps and wrong turns, your regrets and failures, your anxieties and hurt feelings. Journaling has the ability to purge out the toxins just when the pen touches the paper, the ink flushes out the unwanted.
I believe like reading, writing too, is to your mind, what exercise is to your body. When we begin the process, it feels pointless and dull. We are so used to an audience, we cannot jot down our feelings in private. But, jot down we must, as it also helps exercise our grey cells and slowly but steadily there is a marked progress in our sentence construction and contextual description skills. Like regular exercising helps keep our body supple and agile, so also is daily journaling an effective tool in making our brains active and in positive mode.
Moreover, journaling helps bring clarity in the times you are quite muddled. In this age of instant gratification and mindless scrolling, nonstop swiping and virtual escapism, a diary is a real thing. A tangible beauty made of paper that you can savour it at leisure, look it up for ideas or just ogle at the vintage beauty of a bygone era, still very much yours.
I recently learned about the Zen way to look at diary writing or journaling. Just as Buddhist monks spend days making intricate mandala designs, only to wipe it off when it’s completed, so also must a diary be destroyed. Perhaps, the last day of the year is a good day to send your diary to the shredding machine! Ring in the new year with a new diary and press REBOOT!
In conclusion, I’d say your diary can be your road to inner peace. Your diary can be your friend, your philosopher and your guide. Write your own story. Own your day. Jot down things that brought you joy and also those that made you cry, things you’d love to do, friends you’d love to make and places you’d love to visit. Go on… discover the daily joy of journaling!