How To Keep A Meditation Journal To Track Your Practice

Keeping A Meditation Journal To Track Your Practice

Some days we have a great meditation session and other days we feel rushed and annoyed. And of course we wonder why our practice fluctuates so much. One way to find answers to that is to use a meditation journal.

When we have a mindfulness journal we can look back on good days, look at our notes and the circumstances that led to our success, and over time come to understand what makes meditation effective for us. Plus, we will be able to chart our progress, which will motivate us to continue to meditate.

Indeed, the very nature of journaling is mindful. It’s about self-awareness and knowing where we are at the present moment. And in my experience as a mindfulness instructor, many meditators enjoy journaling as part of their daily practice, especially when it’s combined with these mindful writing exercises.

5 Steps To Keeping A Meditation Journal

  1. First, you’ll need to decide on the best type of meditation journal for your practice. Some people like using checklist journals. They list their distractions and their goals. You’ll find this quick and easy. However, it is a little rudimentary and it doesn’t add much to your practice.
  2. I personally enjoy writing prose for my meditation journal. I’ll write a couple of hundred words about my experience in a blank notebook. I put the name of the meditation technique I did at the top of the journal entry, plus the date and time. Then I’ll describe my experience. For instance, did I find it relaxing or uplifting, and were there any distractions? I’ll also make notes of ways I think I can improve my practice.
  3. I recommend making your journal entries short at the beginning. You don’t want to feel bogged down by it. That will just turn you off. If you make it quick and easy you are more likely to stick with it. Don’t’ worry about your writing, either. You’re not writing an essay. You’re writing a simple note to yourself.
  4. Once you are in the habit of maintaining a meditation diary, start to go deeper. I recommend that my students write around 200 words about their experience. For instance, they’ll write: “Did Metta Bhavana for half an hour. Was distracted by the neighbours at first. Then got into it. Felt agitated when I did Loving Kindness for a former friend who let me down. Might need to work on this. Perhaps do more forgiveness meditation. Also opened my eyes halfway through when I was hungry. Then my mind kept being drawn to the sensation of hunger. Perhaps do a Body Scan meditation or Vipassana to help me with distractive sensations.”
  5. Have a pro look over your journal. I’ll personally read my student’s journal entries. In particular, I’ll look at their distractions and their feelings. Then I will make recommendations to help them improve their meditation practice.

Only use the right hand side of your meditation journal

One suggestion I often make is for my students to only write on the right-hand side of the journal. This way, they have a blank left side next to every entry. They can use this space when they review their journal. For instance, they’ll make further reflections on their practice, or they’ll just clean-up the entry and make a concise note of it. This makes it easier to review everything when you look back through several weeks or months.

Benefits of Meditation Journals

Awareness 

One of the most important skills a meditator can possess is self-awareness. We need to know where our weaknesses are so we can work on them. Having a journal is immensely beneficial.

When we look back through our journal we might find that our meditation got worse when we changed postures. Or that we seem to meditate better in a certain room of the house. Knowing this, we can then choose to switch our posture and change rooms. Insights like these are incredibly valuable in the long run.

We can also look back on our distractions. For instance, maybe our journal notes repeatedly mention being distracted by our noisy neighbours. Then, we can make efforts to remove the distractions. Over time, this will improve our practice.

Of course, when we do review ourselves, we shouldn’t be judgmental. We should continue to be mindful. That is, to have a non-judgmental awareness of our practice. Review it and gain insights, but don’t be self-critical.

Goals

We can keep a meditation journal to track goals. Perhaps when we start meditating our goal is to be able to sit and focus for ten minutes. A month later we realise we’ve achieved this, so you can set a new goal. Not only does this help us achieve our goals, but it keeps us motivated.

You can set goals about your emotions too. For instance, maybe you need to work on forgiveness. So, you write that in your meditation journal and focus on it for the next month. Setting your goals in this way gives you a magnetic north pole that you will gravitate towards.


Insight & Understanding

When you maintain a journal you are keeping a record of your practice. And when you look back through your journal you will find insights.

For instance, you will gain insight into why you have good days and bad days. You might find that when you meditate in the morning you have better results than when you meditate at night. Or that certain meditation techniques are better for you than others. Maybe you did Chakra Dhyana one day and felt amazing. And another day you did Zazen and didn’t feel so good. Obviously, these are just examples.

Ultimately, when you having a meditation journal you can use it for insights. And those insights will help you develop your practice and as a nice bonus will increase your emotional awareness [1].


Knowing when you’re progressing and when you’re not

When you look back over the months you will find that you have improved. And that can help you to stay motivated. However, at the same time, you will find days or weeks when you’re stuck. And that is when you will want to work with a meditation teacher like me.

As a professional instructor, I can help you to come unstuck. And I can provide you with valuable guidance, so you continue to develop in your practice.

Indeed, that’s one reason I recommend a journal.

I personally find it helpful when my students keep journals. When they get stuck, we look back through the journal together and find out what went wrong. Then, I provide my insight to help my student develop. In this way, meditation journals are valuable for your teacher as well as for yourself.

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations.

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