Evening’s Kingdom: A miscellanea! Now Seeking… first readers for my new epic fantasy series; how to start journaling; journaling prompts for stress, anxiety, marriage and more.
Today’s episode is a bit different. So, I’m an asshole… I have that whole episode about Fern that I still need to record for you. But in the meantime I’ve recorded two more interviews, one with Justin Booher, an Ayurvedic Chef on living, loving and learnin’ from the leaves - and another with Baker Manning, she of Below Deck fame, talking all about her beautifully perigrigrenations around the world, the mind, and more….
But today I felt like sharing something else.
You might remember that a few shows back I mentioned I was recording in our skoolie, in our dear friend Abby’s driveway. It’s so funny where ideas for books come from - we were in Columbia, South Carolina, and on our way to her house, I saw this sign for a cafe.
It was the craziest name for a cafe I’d ever seen. I couldn’t get it out of my head. And that night I had a dream… for a brand new epic fantasy series :)
For now, I’ll just say it’s like the X Files with witches and time travel… centering around this cafe. I’m seeking early readers for this new story now, and will be sending out a call via my email list. So if you would like to number yourself among them, please sign up to my email list here.
Boop; I will send you your free copy of Book One of Evening’s Kingdom, and as soon as this first installment of my new dark epic fantasy series for adults is ready in the next couple weeks, if you permit me, I’ll pass that along to you for your thoughts as well. I’d love to put early reader’s input deeply into the story, maybe include a few Easter eggs, fun things like that, so if you’re a fantasy fan who likes the X Files, Neil Gaiman, Anne Rice, random monsters of the week and time travel, do count yourself in!
Now this brings me today’s show, which is about a long-running love of mine. Journaling.
Journaling changed my life. It’s free therapy! It helps us to process things, to remember or realize who we want to be - how we want to be - and the practice can be deeply enjoyable, too.
I’ve been sharing journaling prompts with my email subscribers, just the different things I’m working with myself, and the response to these has been so lovely.
So I wanted to talk about my process a little bit here in case it can help someone:
How to start journaling,
How journaling helps with stress,
How some people start journaling for anxiety,
And also, to share some journaling prompts.
I also share 3 more involved frameworks you might consider; one which is suitable for anyone, and two for people who perhaps are looking to journey more deeply, and work through difficulties.
How to start journaling.
Any time you are starting a habit, try to do it the very first thing in the morning for 30 days. You don’t always have to do it first thing, but these first thirty days let you create a deep groove for your new habit, enough for you to really explore it and see if you like the practice to begin with.
So the night before, put out your pen and paper. Maybe you get out your caffeine utilities and put them with your pen and paper also. You might even put them all together on a little tray, so that in the morning it’s easy to mobilize. That night, set your alarm a little early, maybe 20 minutes earlier than you’d normally get up.
In the morning, you make yourself your coffee, and then take your pen & paper outside. (It’s good to expose your organism to daylight first thing in the morning, and this will help set your circadian rhythm so it’s easier to wake up and do this tomorrow.)
Then just mess around for as long as it takes you to drink your tasty beverage.
Here’s some ideas for journaling prompts:
Write five things you’re grateful for,
Write down your biggest fear, and the ten things you would do if it came true.
Write down some of the experiences you’d like to enjoy today, this week, maybe even this season. For example, write down your five favorite summertime sounds, and hold time to listen to those sounds, even just for a moment.
There’s not any rules, and no one ever has to see what you write. It’s probably better if they don’t - this is not a performance. This is a gift to yourself. And thereby to the world - after all, how can we create a more loving and peaceful world, if we don’t love ourselves first?
Or as my friend, the artist Hana Shoup, likes to say, “Don’t do the work. Be the work.”
This brings me to another point. Some people like the idea of journaling but then they feel like sometimes they get onto a dark path with it, and don’t know how to get back out. So they feel nervous about even starting.
A framework can help with this, especially if you can follow it for 30 days.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious,
it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” - Carl Jung
Deepening the Practice
3 Journaling Frameworks.
1. Byron Katie’s ‘The Work’
This really helps you to process anything. This is great for anyone, anytime, in any state of mind. It’s incredibly profound and healing. The Work is just five questions. Visit TheWork.com, where Byron Katie has the instructions available for free - each one of which is a deep meditation. Her process will change the way that you think, in the most wonderful way.
You can also watch her on Youtube, listen to her podcast and/or my favorite, you can read her wonderful book, Loving What Is.
I talk about how The Work helped me in more detail here. Just click and scroll down, where I share my story, along with a yellow brick road of journaling prompts that helped me to release an emotional pain body I didn’t even realize I had wafting around me.
(PS a note for poetry lovers. Byron Katie is married to Stephen Mitchell!! Yes - that Stephen Mitchell :) Their marriage seems beautifully expansive, and I admire his work the more for it. If you’re geeking out like I did when I first learned this, you might also enjoy this article about them from the LA Times ? )
I just can’t say it enough. Journaling changed my life. Journaling helps. So much.
2. Melodie Beattie’s Gratitude Practice
This framework is all about releasing the deep, deep subconscious resistance we all have to making our greatest dreams come true. It’s often easy to see how the people around us often act as their own worst enemy, but this is true for all of us. Most of us (often very) actively sabotage ourselves.
Like Byron Katie, Melodie Beattie has a free journaling practice that she wants to disseminate everywhere; she says on her website to please actively talk about and share this practice.
She’s also written about it thoroughly in her wonderful book, Make Miracles Happen in 40 days. This is a gratitude practice with a deep spin you may never have heard of.
Here’s what you do. For 40 days, you wake up and write down ten things you are grateful for - including the bad and difficult things.
For example, you might say, I’m grateful I feel so sad today about the mess that is my life.
I’m grateful I’m so far from where I want to be.
I’m grateful that I can see where I want to be, even though it feels far away, I’m grateful that the journey there is one that I want to take.
I’m grateful I’m on this journey.
I’m grateful for this black, black coffee and that today is a new day.
I’m so grateful today is a new day, and that I can be whoever I want to be.
I’m grateful to be who I am, even though I am not perfect.
I’m not perfect, and i don’t want to be perfect, and I’m really grateful for that!
By acknowledging the difficult things - not fighting them, or pretending that they don’t exist - you dissolve your resistance to them. And then the energy can move.
And it does!
Some days you might find yourself writing a list of 20 things; other days it might be hard to even do five, but make yourself do this. Commit to this. And see what happens.
A beautiful quote that comes to mind here. Once upon a time, the Buddha said:
“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”
Researching this for you, I came across something beautiful from my journal that I’d written around this time. All this work was starting to open up space again. I was staying present, I was listening deeply, and my husband and I were healing:
“Tonight we made tacos and watched Walk With Me, a movie about the Buddhist monk Thich Nhant Hanh and his monastery. We fell asleep snuggled and he held my hands with both of his.
There was this beautiful part in the movie where this young girl asked him how she could not be so sad after a loss, and Thich Nhat Hanh said she could look at a cloud…
and when it was gone… she could realize that it was not really gone.
It was the rain.
It was her tea.
Our marriage isn’t gone. It is just the rain, it’s our tea. It’s all around us. It’s love.
And love is brave.”
3. Plant Medicine + Gratitude Practice
This third framework is something I did at my darkest point.
A few years ago, I was in about as dark a state as it’s possible for an INFJ / INFP person to be.
Which is pretty bad, because we are psychos ? (Anyone reading this who ever dated me is probably laughing. But can agree, yes? xx)
Anyway, this practice brought me incredible peace, and growth. And also, incidentally, it seemed to help a lot of people around me.
So there I was, on the lowest rung on my own personal ladder to hell. It felt like everything was crashing down because … it was. I’d failed at everything I’d put heart and soul into and… I didn’t know what to do. My writing was a failure, my career was a failure, I’d had these miscarriages and my husband, my favorite person in all the world, we were in a bad place. We loved each other desperately but we were also, let’s say, mutually furious with one another. It was a mess.
This is what helped...
(A quick and serious caveat before we begin. I am not a doctor, of any kind. I am just a curious organism, this does not constitute medical advice. Some of what I’m about to mention is not legal everywhere - yet - so all of what follows is just for entertainment purposes. If it is something you are interested to learn more about, there is so much incredibly knowledgeable support out there, from licensed health practitioners and so on. Tons of books and documentaries, too - Fantastic Fungi, How to Change Your Mind - if you’re feeling a ping on this. Do your research. I’ve put a ton of links below in the shownotes, too, many enjoyable rabbit holes. Explore! Enjoy!)
I did my research, and this was the path I chose:
For four weeks, I combined the Paul Stamets stack with 20 minutes of meditation, and then the Melodie Beattie gratitude journaling practice.
I’ll break that down:
Four days a week, every morning before work, I got up and did the Paul Stamets protocol, usually outside, meditated for twenty minutes, and then I journaled.
The other three days a week, I took a tolerance break and just meditated and journaled in the morning.
The Paul Stamets stack has been written about extensively. Theoretically, it helps to bring about neurogenesis in the brain, enhances cognition, possibly prevents dementia and, especially in combination with meditation and journaling, it is incredibly powerful for rerouting habits of mind, certain grooves of mind, especially anxiety and depression. The dosage is very small. Although you will likely feel more open-hearted and open-minded, you should absolutely be able to perform all your usual tasks, but with a deeper presence. This will change your life.
Do note that the tolerance break is important; some people format theirs differently. Do your research!
The first day journaling out the gratitude practice was really sad. I don’t even know how many horrible feelings and facts I had to write down that I was grateful to be feeling. But by the end of however many pages, I was grateful for birdsong, the sun on my face, and just to be alive.
I’ve continued journaling, on and off ever since. In general, I find that I live more lightly in the world, with gratitude and a joyful sense of the sacred in all things.
No small part of that is for the connection I love with you, my dear travelers, on this strange and beautiful quest of this, our incarnation! I like to think of us all as little mycelial blooms of the divine... and we are never alone :)
Thank you so much for reading.
Please join us for more free weekly journaling prompts, and do let me know if you’d enjoy being an early reader for my new epic fantasy audiobook. Just click here to start, and I’ll send you a lovely mailing.
And in our next episode, I promise, I promise, I will take you deep into Fern’s world, in Evening’s Kingdom.
Please stay tuned. The rest of the story is… just down the road :)
With love & stories,
The artist Hana Shoup - https://www.hanashoup.com
Byron Katie: TheWork.com & also Loving What Is
Byron Katie on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BcghG-WwCU
Byron Katie’s Podcast: https://thework.com/at-home-with-byron-katie-podcast/
Stephen Mitchell: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2009-apr-12-ca-stephen-mitchell12-story.html
Melodie Beattie’s Gratitude Practice - https://melodybeattie.com/books/make-miracles-forty-days-turning-want/
It Takes One to Tango, by Winifred M. Reilly.
Walk With Me: https://walkwithmefilm.com
Thich Nhat Hanh https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th%C3%ADch_Nhất_Hạnh
Fantastic Fungi - https://www.netflix.com/title/81183477
How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan -TV Series: https://www.netflix.com/title/80229847
How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan -Book: https://www.amazon.com/Change-Your-Mind-Consciousness-Transcendence/dp/1594204225
Paul Stamets Stack: https://psychedelicspotlight.com/how-to-microdose-psilocybin-paul-stamets-the-stamets-stack/
Lucky last: R/Ayahuasca. Magic is real :)