One of the worst parts about faith deconstruction is the identity crisis that comes along with it. For my whole life, my identity has been intimately wrapped with my faith and my call to vocational ministry. Now that I’m questioning that call , my identity is question alongside it.
Who am I? What is my post-deconstruction purpose? Where do I belong? What do I like to do? What am I passionate about these days?
These are all questions that have been floating around in my head for the past few months. But I’ve realized that’s the problem. These questions have been in my head, taking up space, bringing me anxiety and stress. The other day I felt the sudden need to get these thoughts out of my head and onto paper. So for the first time in months, I picked up my pen and notebook and started journaling.
I’ve been journaling the last couple of days now, and while I still don’t know the answers to the questions I’m asking, there has been something cathartic about just writing these questions down. Distancing these thoughts from myself and having a place to objectively look at them. So today I’m going to talk about the process of mindful journaling.
Mindfulness is a hot topic these days in spirituality and even productivity spheres of influence. The idea of “mindfulness” involves being fully present in the moment. If you’ve ready any of my blog posts in the past, you’ll know that I talk about this concept often. I don’t call it “mindfulness” as much as I call it “eternity” or even “otium sanctum.” But the concept is the same.
When mindfulness is spoken of in many circles, it’s often in the context of mindfulness meditation. I want to make an important distinction here, though. Mindfulness and meditation are not the same thing. It’s important to understand that meditation is a way of practicing mindfulness. The hope is that, through repetitions of mindfulness meditation, one would become more mindful in other areas of life. But meditation isn’t the only way to practice mindfulness. We can practice mindfulness anytime and anywhere, simply by bringing our awareness to the present moment. By observing our feelings, our emotions, our behaviors. By noting our anxieties, our fears, and our gratitudes.
The reason I’m talking about mindfulness here is that I believe it is the key to the internal introspection that needs to take place in my life. I believe that by being more mindful in any given moment, I will be able to learn more about myself and develop a better sense of identity. A sense of identity based on observation and experience, not based on the ideal version of myself that lives in my head (which I wrote about in my previous blog post).
And this is my goal with journaling.
I’ve been teasing the idea in this blog about jumping into different spiritual disciplines for a set amount of time to really try to connect with God in a deep way. I have a lot of different ideas and practices that I want to implement into my life, even if it’s just for the short term. And I will unpack those ideas as I go. But for my first endeavor, I’m going to journey deep into the center of my being with the practice of mindful journaling.
The short answer is... it’s not. Mindful journaling is just journaling. The reason I’m calling this a mindful journaling practice is just to remind myself why I’m doing this.
How is journaling an act of mindfulness? It’s simple. The process of journaling is the process of distilling one’s thoughts in time. Taking our timeless and spiritual consciousness and embedding it into space and time through pen and paper. Through this process, we’re able to really discover what we’re thinking, what we’re feeling, and how we’re doing in the present moment. It is the embodiment of mindfulness.
One of the best things about mindful journaling is that, not only are you recognizing your thoughts in the moment, but you’re also capturing those thoughts forever. You’ll be able to hold in your hands a collection of your personal thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions over the course of a lifetime. What better way to grasp one’s identity through observation than to track one’s emotional and spiritual growth over the course of time?
All I can tell you is what I’m going to be doing myself over the next 30 days. Feel free to join me, wherever you are and whenever you’re reading this, by taking the following guidelines into consideration or by creating your own from scratch. I’m the kind of person that likes structure, so I’m always trying to force some sort of framework onto habits and routines. But with something like journaling, there really isn’t any right or wrong way to do it. If all you need to do is sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and write whatever pops into your head until you think you’re done, then that’s fine! But here’s what my own process is going to be.
I’m going to journal twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the evening. When I wake up, after I take a shower and am somewhat put together for the day, I’m going to sit down at my desk with my notebook and set a timer for 20 minutes. At that point, I’m just going to write. Everything that’s on my mind, what I thought about in the shower, any thoughts that may have kept me up throughout the night, stresses, excitements, goals, plans, tasks, etc. When the timer goes off, I’m going to look back over my journal entry and figure out if anything I wrote down needs to be acted upon that day, such as pertinent tasks or events. If so, I’ll move those over to my task manager in Notion.
At the end of the day, I’ll do the same thing. Right before I go to bed, I’ll sit down and set my timer for 20 minutes. I’ll just start writing whatever I’m thinking and feeling.
After a few days to a week, I’ll look over my entries and try to determine any patterns, central themes, limiting thoughts, common desires, or anything else that seems to stick out to me. I’ll highlight these passages so I can come back to them later.
After 30 days are up, I hope to have a nice collection of my consciousness streams that can help me really develop a sense of self awareness. And at that point, I’ll do some reflecting and come back here to write a follow-up blog post.
That’s pretty much it for the challenge. Now I know I’m going to get stuck over the next 30 days. And if you’re joining me on this journey, I’m sure you will, too. So below I’ll add some mindfulness journaling prompts to get the juices flowing. I’ll keep coming back to this post over the next 30 days to add more as they come up in my own journaling times.
- Describe the room that you’re in right now. What do you see? What do you feel? What do you hear? What do you smell?
- What emotion feels most prominent to you right now? Why?
- What do you want to do today? What would make today great?
- What is something that you want?
- What is stopping you from getting what you want?
- Which people in your life are you closest to right now?
- Is there anyone in your life that you miss, or anyone that you wish you were able to see more often?
- Do you feel any tension in your body right now? Are you carrying any anxieties or stresses in your body?
- How rushed do you feel right now? How relaxed do you feel?
- Have the past 24 hours gone by quickly? Slowly? An average pace? What do you think has caused your perception of time to flow at such a rate?
- What did you enjoy the most about today, or what are you most looking forward to about today?
- What did you enjoy the least about today, or what are you dreading today?
Get out there and start your journal today! I hope it brings you to a place of mindfulness and self-awareness. If you try this out, I’d love to hear about it. Please email me and let me know how it’s going. I’d love to learn about any way I can help you in your spiritual journey or just hear about your experiences.
Grace and peace, Tyler Martin