It can be helpful to spend a period of time writing down your experiences in meditation just after you sit. This can help you become more familiar with your experience in meditation. By writing things down, we can cultivate awareness of of thoughts, feelings, and bodily states that come up in meditation. By recalling these experiences, we can identify patterns, obstacles, and develop tolerance and curiosity about our minds.
Here are some basic instructions for journaling your meditation. I am indebted to Jason Siff's book Unlearning Meditation as the inspiration for this approach.
1. Find a quiet spot to meditate; either a cushion or a chair is fine. Decide how long you are going to meditate and have a timer or watch nearby. If you are new to meditation, try starting with ten minutes. If you are a more experienced meditator, try twenty to fifty minutes.
2. You may use any meditation technique you find helpful. Many people find that counting the breaths on the exhale, from one to ten, is a good way to stabilize the mind. If you have a koan, you can bring it in. You can also just let your mind go where it will, bringing attention back to the sensation of the hands touching each other or the contact of the body with the cushion or chair from time to time.
3. After the sitting, take a moment to recall what you can of the sitting. Have a notebook or journal nearby, and start by writing the date and duration of the meditation.
4. Write down as much as you can remember about what happened in your meditation. It doesn't have to be complete, exact, or in chronological order. You can write in a list form, or as a narrative. Start with what you remember most easily, then write other things that come to mind. Don't be a perfectionist about it!
5. It is normal that you will remember only a small part of what happened; that is just fine. Keep your entries focused on what actually happened during the meditation, rather than your analysis of your meditation.
6. You may also use creative formats, such as sketches or experimental writing.
Here is a sample of a journal entry. Yours may be very different!
February 3, 2016, 30 minutes
Many thoughts about my office space, ways I could redecorate, worry about finances. A flash of anger at my rent increase. Started to feel that these aren't real concerns, but rather part of a bigger feeling of "something wrong." This lead to a distance from the thoughts and a curiosity about the pervasive "something wrong" feeling. I leaned into it and felt a heavy, sad energy, and it came as a feeling of weight in my heart and an image of brown sludge in my bloodstream. Having this feeling made me strangely happy. There were still thoughts about my office but they seemed slower and more transparent. I noticed a red glow behind my eyelids. The heater came on, and I worried I would get too warm and sleepy. Started to think that I'm becoming comfortable as my thoughts and feelings aren't frantic. Then thought my meditation is getting better, and thought I shouldn't evaluate my meditation. Returned to my breath. At some point rain started to fall on the skylight and I rode the patter of the rain. I had a strong feeling that the rain and I are intimate.
Megan Rundel is the resident teacher at the Crimson Gate Meditation Community in Oakland, CA..