Six Ways to Keep Journal Writing Fresh, with Lynda Monk

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Whether you are new to journal writing or it’s been a part of your life forever, keeping the process fresh is important. Journaling expert Lynda Monk, MSW, RSW, CPCC, is full of ideas to help you engage with your journaling practice in colorful ways. It’s a joy to welcome her to Journaling.com.

Lynda is the Director of the International Association for Journal Writing.  A registered social worker and Certified Professional Life Coach, Lynda specializes in therapeutic journaling for self-care, burnout prevention, wellness, and creative self-expression, and she regularly speaks on the healing and transformational power of life writing. She is the co-author of Writing Alone Together: Journalling in a Circle of Women for Creativity, Compassion and Connection,  as well as co-author of the international bestseller Inspiration for a Woman’s SoulChoosing Happiness.  She is also the author of Life Source Writing: A Reflective Journaling Practice for Self-Discovery, Self-Care, Wellness and Creativity and producer of the Creative Wellness Guided Meditations CD. 

To listen to our podcast interview with Lynda, click on the play button below. Or keep reading to see the written highlights from our talk.

Flexibility is Fundamental

When Lynda talks about her own journaling practice, a spirit of flexibility infuses her approach. As a mother to young teens, her free time is limited, but she says that journaling remains a priority in her life, and she always keeps her journal with her. A commute by ferry gives Lynda a stretch of time to freewrite. Waiting in parking lots for her children to finish afterschool activities, gifts Lynda more opportunities to jot down her thoughts onto paper.

Since time is limited, Lynda’s come to recognize the value in maximizing opportunities to write. This realization led her to a series of techniques to keep her writing practice fresh and inviting. These techniques/tips are gleaned from years of study. Lynda attended a memoir writing residency at Banff School of the Arts, and trained with many of the top leaders in expressive writing and therapeutic writing. These tips are light and easy-to-do, but they are grounded in evidence-based practice and years of education and experience. It’s this experience and knowledge that makes Lynda one of the top experts in the journaling field.

An ongoing journaling practice is like any long term relationship. When you show up to it again and again with enthusiasm and positivity, great things happen.

Lynda Monk

Lynda’s Six Tips to Keep Journaling Fresh

In addition to being trained and educated in this field, Lynda is also a life-long journaler herself.

  1. Clarify your intentions. Lynda recommends regularly checking in with yourself to identify what motivates you to journal. Gaining this insight keeps journaling fresh because it helps you constantly rediscover the “whys” you want answers to.
  2. Cultivate curiosity. Arrive at each writing session with wonder and an eagerness to make new discoveries. Approach your journal with wide-open eyes and engage with questions that have risen to the surface. New questions foster new awareness that we can follow up on with a plan for action.
  3. Honor the questions in your heart.  In life, the big question marks we encounter point us in the directions we most need to contemplate. When we honor this need, we tap into fresh material to help us cultivate inner wisdom.
  4. Affirm the contributions journaling makes to your life. Just like brushing your teeth or taking a shower, journaling may be an essential component of your self-care routine. When we acknowledge the ways journaling makes us a better parent, partner, son or daughter, we don’t have to struggle to justify fitting this mindfulness act into our schedules.
  5. Journal with other people. Writing Alone Together, a book Lynda co-authored with  friends Wendy Cutler and Ahava Shira, was born from their shared experiences in a journaling club. For three years, the trio met monthly to share space and writing. Through that experience, Lynda’s appreciation for the power of storytelling and community was reinforced. Together the friends cultivated a space for active quiet listening.
  6. Journal in a variety of settings. New surroundings provide a fresh outlook and shift in our perspective. There’s no right or wrong location. Visit a park or forest. Sit on the earth or a comfy couch. Write down your thoughts in a coffee shop or from your deck. The ways that we connect with our environment will be reflected in how we engage with our journals.

Other Tips and Techniques

Lynda recommends that we adapt techniques used in other forms of writing.

  • Journal with dialogue. If faced with a difficult choice between two possibilities, give each option a voice. Engage both sides in dialogue on the pages of your journal.
  • Develop characters. If you were to put a face and personality on your anxiety, joy, or grief, what would that look like? Who would that person be?

Lynda notes, “Journaling is an act of storytelling.  Journalers are storytellers who capture moments, insights, and inner workings as each merges onto the pages of their journal.”

Your Action Plan

  • Discover more about Lynda’s work. Visit her online at Creative Wellness –  and learn about the work she does supporting healthcare professionals with Thrive Training and Coaching 
  • Explore IAJW’s website and consider becoming a member of this vibrant community.

Read Lynda’s book Writing Alone Together

  • Listen to our podcast interview with Lynda.
  • Invigorate your writing life. Give Lynda’s six suggestions a try this week.

Lynda wisely equates an ongoing journaling practice with any long term relationship. She reminds us that when we show up to journal again and again with enthusiasm, great things happen. Greeting each writing session with an attitude of positivity keeps our writing fresh and meaningful.

Write Your Way Through Challenging Life Transitions, with Leia Francisco

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

In life, change is inevitable. While some changes are chosen, others are thrust upon us without warning. Our special guest today, Leia Francisco, teaches us how to navigate new directions with grace, wisdom, and even joy. I find her visionary work personally helpful, and I’m honored to have her here at Journaling.com.

Leia Francisco is a coach, teacher, and writer of transitions. Her book Writing through Transitions: A Guide for Transforming Life Changes is now in its second printing. Leia holds a Master’s degree and is a Board Certified Coach. Leia has been a faculty member of the Therapeutic Writing Institute, where she’s taught transition writing for over a decade. Her certification program is a highly individualized, self-paced training that prepares others to develop their own signature transition coaching or workshop. Leia lives in the beautiful hill country of Texas.

Leia’s work will transform the way you engage with changes in your life. To learn more, listen to our interview, or read below to see highlights from our talk.

Transition Defined

Leia makes an important distinction between the terms change and transition. Change, she explains is an external event such as getting or losing a job, buying a new home, or becoming a grandparent. In contrast, transition is interior and represents the emotional and psychological landscape we travel in order to get to a new place in life. Transition is a response to change.

Our responses to change are unique, and each is inspired by singular circumstances. How we engage with our interior response, Leia suggests, determines how much meaning we glean from the  transitions in our lives.

People can feel like they are stuck when really they are being stilled.

Leia Francisco

How Writing Helps Navigate Transition

In the midst of whirling swirling change, writing grounds us and helps us to feel a sense of control.

Writing supports us in times of transition by:

  • identifying skills and strengths.
  • shining a light on our emotions.
  •  providing clarity.
  • accessing new parts of the brain which helps us gain additional insight and creativity.
  • providing distance on the paper between us and our emotions.
  • revealing progress through a written document that can be repeatedly revisited.
  • centering and structuring our ideas.

The Transition Process in Three Steps

When contemplating personal transitions, Leia encourages us to think in metaphor.  She compares significant transitions to what it feels like to move from one home to another. 

Step 1: Letting Go

Sticking with the house metaphor, this is the stage when we look over our possessions and decide what needs to be sold or donated.  It’s important to grieve at this stage.  It can be painful to part from items, people, emotions and ideas we’ve carried with us.

Now is also the time to identify which treasures we’ll bring with us. Not everything has to go! Leia observes that when we experience a cataclysmic change like divorce or the loss of a job, there is a tendency to think we’ve lost everything. The truth is, we leave behind some things but not all.

Writing Prompts to Navigate Step 1

  • Journal about the most significant losses signified by this transition. What do these mean to you?
  •  Write about the treasures you’ll keep and bring forward to your new destination.
  • Make a list of supports available to you as you embark on this transition. Write down whoever and whatever can nourish you in this time—friends, family, pets, nature.

Step Two: Limbo

This is a time of questions and uncertainty. But it’s also a period of tremendous opportunity. You’ve shut the door of your old home for the last time and said all of your goodbyes. It’s not quite time to move into your new place. Maybe you’ll have to spend a few weeks in a hotel. Now is the time to visualize your way forward.

Fear can rise at this stage. This tendency is normal and okay. Fear, Leia reminds us, is a way we protect ourselves. Embrace fear as a legitimate companion on this part of your journey. Receive this emotion without being overwhelmed. At the same time, challenge fear, rise and show it your strength and power.

Leia acknowledges that this time of uncertainty can be particularly difficult because on the surface we feel stuck. This may be a good time to read old journals and acknowledge that you’ve come further than you might have realized.

Writing Prompts to Navigate Step 2

  • You’ll need all the psychic energy you can muster to engage fully with this stage. Lighten your load where you can. Write about obligations that can be dropped or limited.
  • Identify and write about self-care techniques you will implement. Writing down these ideas makes it more likely they’ll be actualized.
  • What wild and crazy thoughts have you had this week? Write about them. Open that creative valve and think about your circumstances in bold new ways.
  • Answer the question, “What would I do if I knew I could not fail?”
  • Use metaphors to write about this upside-down season. Perhaps this period of transition makes you think of building a house, starting a garden, or fixing a car. Metaphors can help us understand thoughts and feelings that are otherwise difficult to name.

Most people want to skip this middle stage. I get it! It’s extraordinarily uncomfortable to be in between and without a map to show where you are headed. But Leia points out that completing this stage is vital in ensuring our transition is a meaningful one.

Step 3: The Change

You’ve arrived! You are in your new house. But you are still unpacking boxes. There’s not enough furniture to get comfortable just yet, but you are close.

In general, Leia cautions, people are wired to want to get on with the change. They may try to pass through this stage too quickly. It’s important to pause, to consider where you’ve come from and where you are headed next.  You might journal about the following:

  • Write about the change you’ve faced.
  • What has this change meant to you?
  • What resources did you rely on to navigate this transition?

When we have processed the change fully and deeply, we have transitioned.

Your Action Plan

Throughout each of these steps, Leia makes a plea for patience. Answers will not come overnight she reminds us. Transition is a slow, deep process. In the midst of this season, people can feel like they are stuck when really they are being stilled.

Give yourself permission to complete each step with mindfulness and intention. Writing is an invaluable tool that will make this work easier.

Journal Therapy: An Innovative Tool for Self-Discovery, with Kathleen Adams

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Psychotherapist and founder of the Center for Journal Therapy, Kathleen Adams, joined us at Journaling.com to talk about journaling techniques we can use to facilitate self-discovery. Kathleen is as knowledgeable as she is passionate about the benefits of therapeutic journaling. Our conversation was a delight, and we are so pleased to have the chance to share her important work with you.

Kathleen is the New York Times bestselling author of Journal to the Self and eleven other books on therapeutic writing. Kathleen is well known in the therapeutic journaling community and is a pioneer in writing for growth, healing, and change. She is also founder of The Therapeutic Writing Institute (TWI), a distance-learning training institute for facilitators of therapeutic writing.

You can listen to Kathleen’s podcast interview by using the play button (below.) Or continue reading for the highlights of that conversation.

Journal Therapy Inspires Deep Growth and Understanding

In 1985, Kathleen taught her first journaling class and knew immediately that the healing art and science of journal writing would be her life’s work. 

Kathleen explains that therapeutic journal writing is a versatile technique that helps manage the same issues other forms of therapy address, including:

  • personal growth
  • life management
  • problem solving
  • mood management

Journal therapy is the use of life-based writing for healing, growth, and change.

Kathleen Adams

Kathleen’s “List of 100 Things”

Kathleen’s methodology relies on a wide-range of original techniques to address a variety of needs. One of our favorite suggestions is Kathleen’s “List of 100 Things.” This technique is so straightforward and effective you’ll wonder why you’ve never tried it before. 

Here’s how it works:

  • Jot down one question that’s on your mind.  What are 100 things I want to try? What are 100 things I want to write about? What are 100 ways to communicate better?
  • Number your paper from 1 to 100.
  • Write the first responses that spring into your mind. Keep it simple. Use bullets, phrases, and abbreviations.
  • Throughout this exercise, it’s okay, even helpful, if your responses repeat themselves.
  • Keep your pen flying. Kathleen recommends getting ideas onto paper within twenty minutes.
  • Take a look at your responses and synthesize them into themes such as wellness, professional goals, family life, and creative pursuits.
  • Calculate how many items appear under each theme to discover what percentage each idea represents. Kathleen notes that sometimes what we think will be a dominant category turns out to be less significant, and new unconscious desires can come into the foreground.
  • Process this information and then act on those discoveries. If 50% of your statements are about a need to be in nature and your home is in an urban area, it’s time to act! You might decide to make time to play in a wild setting one weekend each month or after work if that’s feasible. 

Actualize Abstract Feelings

Kathleen points out that journaling is an opportunity to make our abstract ideas and emotions concrete. By letting our ideas exist outside of ourselves, they become actualized, and we have a record we can return to and learn from.

“Writing lets us read our own minds and hearts,” Kathleen explains. Don’t you love that?

Tips from Kathleen

Kathleen’s advice is simple and true. With a smile in her voice she says, “There’s no wrong, just write.”

On a practical level, she suggests recording the year and date of every entry. Another thoughtful tip is to make an index that enables you to follow major themes in your writing with ease.

Your Action Plan

Learn more about Kathleen’s work. Visit her online at her Center For Journal Therapy.

  • For more information, listen to the podcast interview with Kathleen.
  • Write your own “100 Things” list today!
  • Explore Kathleen’s latest endeavor, Journalversity, a learning community for journal writers and facilitators worldwide that provides professional development (CE courses for therapists) and personal growth online classes.

Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act, with Carolyn Koehnline

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Author and certified journal therapist Carolyn Koehnline wrote Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act to help people approach the act of decluttering with mindful intention. Carolyn’s collection of essays, paintings, and poems provide comfort in the midst of decluttering. She’s written a marvelous book, and it was a pleasure to talk with her on our podcast, The Power of Journaling.

Carolyn is a certified journal therapist, licensed psychotherapist, personal coach, and the creator of Gentle Approach Coaching. For twenty-seven years, she’s supported people in clearing clutter from their homes, heads, hearts, and schedules. She is the author of three books: Confronting Your Clutter, a children’s book called The Bear’s Gift, and her newly released book, Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act. Carolyn is a faculty member of the Therapeutic Writing Institute and the Journalversity. In addition to her private coaching practice, she offers self-paced solo courses, group online classes, and provides workshops in a wide variety of settings.

To hear our discussion, listen to the podcast below. Or continue reading for highlights of our conversation.

Defining Clutter

Carolyn describes clutter as a subjective term which she defines as any object, emotion, or commitment that drains energy or distracts us from priorities.

Kinds of Clutter

Clutter can appear in a variety of forms which are oftentimes interconnected. Carolyn identifies its most common manifestations as:

  • object clutter
  • head clutter
  • heart clutter
  • calendar clutter

Often, she observes, the old items that wind up in our attics and basements represent decisions we don’t want to make or experience. These objects reflect internal conflict and confusion and can come to symbolize a former profession or relationship or any passage of time being grieved.  

In her work as a decluttering coach, Carolyn finds that turning toward an object with full attention, and taking time for a meaningful goodbye, can help release this kind of emotional clutter.

Make decluttering a transformational act

Carolyn Koehnline

Journaling to Make New Space in Our Lives

Journaling plays a meaningful role in Carolyn’s clutter-clearing practice. To help untangle and resolve conflicted feelings, she recommends writing for 5-10 minute stretches when possible.

To decide whether an item should stay or go, Carolyn suggests reflecting on a few simple questions which can be used as writing prompts.

  • How does this item make me feel?
  • Does this object deplete or boost my energy?
  • How does the stuff I’ve accumulated impact important relationships?

Customize a Plan That Works  

A number of impressive decluttering experts are writing books to spread the message, less really can be more. What stands out in Carolyn’s approach is her emphasis on the idea there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits all approach. Rather, she shares methods and tools to help determine an individualized approach to the decluttering process. “We are all different,” she explains. “The more you tune into your inner voice the better the process with go.”

Decluttering is a Sacred Act

Carolyn inspires us to make the act of decluttering a joyful, sacred process. When we clear out clutter, we make space in our lives for something new. She offers a few simple tips to guide our thinking.

  • Dedicate this process to a meaningful objective such as spending more time with family or pursuing creative endeavors. Infuse the process with meaning.
  • As you work your way through piles, avoid negative thoughts which deplete you.
  • Along the way, energy may slag. Pause. Repeat your intention. Write it down in your journal if you like. Remind yourself that the purpose of this action is to grow spaciousness in your life.

Create a Soul Space

In her book, Carolyn describes the soul space as any place that nurtures curiosity, inspiration, and reflective thinking. Children are master architects of this sort of design—they know the magic of a well-engineered blanket fort or treehouse where possibilities for playful exploration feel infinite. As adults, a decluttered space which reflects who we are and what we care about can serve a similar function. When we establish a sacred space, Carolyn explains, we make room to go to a deeper place in our selves. The voice that emerges will be a voice we can trust.  

Pace Yourself

As we work our way through piles of “stuff” it’s easy to think we should be farther along than we are. Carolyn urges us instead to trust the pace with which we work.

It’s helpful to check in with your journal periodically. Track progress there. Record when you’ll take your next break. Write down small goals that can be checked-off when completed. Use your journal to celebrate decluttering victories—large and small.

Action plan

  • Learn more about Carolyn’s work. Visit her online at Gentle Approach Coaching.
  • For a limited time you can order a signed copy of her new book, Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act.
  • Create your own soul space, and spend meaningful time there regularly.
  • Write about any object, head, heart, and calendar clutter in your own life and make a plan to tackle these at a comfortable pace.
  • Listen to my interview with Carolyn (above).

In creating spaciousness in our lives, we invite new opportunities and experiences. Be kind and compassionate to yourself as you work your way through this process.

If you enjoyed this interview, you might appreciate listening to Lea Fransisco’s podcast. We discuss how to write your way through challenging life transitions.

Weave Mindfulness into Your Journaling Practice, with Beth Jacobs

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

With great joy, we recently sat down to talk with writer and clinical psychologist, Beth Jacobs.

Beth is an eloquent spokesperson for the benefits of weaving mindfulness into one’s journaling practice. A writer and clinical psychologist, Beth is the author of Paper Sky: What Happened After Anne Frank’s Diary, The Original Buddhist Psychology, A Buddhist Journal, and editor of selections from Grandparents Rock: Writings of the Second Chance Grandparents Group. Beth leads expressive writing groups for children, teenagers, and grandparents, and was a contributed services faculty member at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL for over twenty years. Her work and writing span many fields, with an emphasis on therapeutic creativity and depth exploration.

You can listen to my interview with Beth or read below to see highlights of our conversation.

Defining Mindfulness

The term mindfulness comes up again and again, but what exactly does this word mean? Beth defines mindfulness as “a capacity to hold dispassionate awareness in the midst of process.” Mindfulness, she explains, helps us to explore process without judgement. This consciousness instills in us calm awareness and objective thought.

The Power of Mindfulness

With eloquence, Beth explains that a mindfulness practice has the power to:

  • broaden perspective and cultivate acceptance.
  • neutralize counter-productive emotions.
  • help us live life moment by moment.
  • assist in assessing each process so we avoid running off with a process that is not productive.

Mindfulness is the opposite of a vicious cycle. It’s an opening, calming, widening spiral.

Journaling Tips to Help Us Be in the Here and Now

Beth shares simple, effective methods we can implement with ease.

  1. Experiment with Different Writing Styles
    If your go-to method is freewriting, trying gathering your thoughts with lists and bullet points. If you are the highly organized type, let go with a method like freewriting.
    The benefit of experimentation is that it allows you to exercise different parts of the brain. You are actually training your mind to have broader ways of expressing and examining internal processes.
  2. Court Surprise
    When you come to the end of journaling, write “PS” and then keep on writing. You may think you were done, but so often our PS is where the juicy idea is waiting.

    Poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” Write your own list of questions. This act will reveal what it is you want to learn about yourself.
  3. Bring Meditation to Your Writing Practice
    Begin your journaling session in a relaxed pose. Concentrate on breathing. Keep a journal or computer nearby. Every time your mind wanders from breathing, jot down your thought as a note, word, or brief phrase. The thought you write might be a worry, a bodily sensation, or a task you need to finish.

    When you’ve completed this meditation, you’ll have an informative list. You may notice themes you want to better understand—aches and pains, task lists, or particular emotions that have come to the surface. In Beth’s life, these lists have become the skeletons of beautiful poems.

My absolute favorite thing about journaling is that you can actually surprise yourself with your own writing. This never ceases to please and amaze me.

Beth Jacobs

Your Action Plan

  • Implement Beth’s Journaling Tips into your own writing practice.
  • Learn more about Beth’s work. Visit her online attheoriginalbuddhistpsychology.com.
  • Enroll in Beth’s self-directed online course entitled Writing for Emotional Balance at
    The International Association for Journal Writing (IAJW).
  • Light a candle, pour a cup of  tea, and dive deep into Beth’s books, Paper Sky: What Happened After Anne Frank’s Diary, The Original Buddhist Psychology, A Buddhist Journal, and editor of selections from Grandparents Rock: Writings of the Second Chance Grandparents Group.
  • For more inspiration, listen to my interview with Beth.
  • Finally, experiment with new journaling techniques. Dance outside your comfort zone and be amazed!

I asked Beth to leave us with a final thought to carry forward, and her words were just perfect. She shared a quote from Peema Chödrö.  “Be generous, precise, and open.”  Beth added, “See things plainly. When we live plainly, closer to the data without adding worries, we are more in our lives.”