Zen is very misunderstood. Most people think that Zen refers to a state of being peaceful and blissed out. But it isn’t. Zen is the state of living in the present moment. Saying yes to whatever is happening. Happy, sad, pleasant, or unpleasant.
Looking to the past or the future is not Zen. So journaling to record the present, to then go over it in the future, always seemed contradictory to my Zen practice.
However, there is a kind of journaling, if you want to call it that, that is congruent to Zen practice. Because it enhances the experience of the moment and helps you get grounded in it. It came to me through my Zen practice and my personal work in Gestalt Therapy, and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). It goes like this: when you experience an intense emotion, like anxiety, extreme sadness, depression, anger, embarrassment, craving, and intense situations like arguments, job interviews, or breakups, it’s a great practice to do the following:
- Find the nearest and quietest spot
- Get something to write with
- Take a deep breath
- Write down what is happening. What you are experiencing. Don’t question. Don’t edit. Follow the Buddha’s direction and become “A witness to your own thoughts”.
- When your attention flows somewhere else, stop.
What you feel at that moment is Zen.
Keep what you wrote if you want. Throw it away if you want. It doesn’t matter.
There is always another moment, and another experience coming.