Nowadays, life is pretty demanding for most of us. From our daily Sisyphean tasks to the moment we lie down to sleep, we wade through a lot of ads, billboards, TV, radio, environmental noise, and stresses of life; we are bombarded with so many unnecessary stimuli that we barely have time to hear, let alone sort out our own inner thoughts. Our minds, at the end of the day, are pretty much jumbled up and tangled in many tight loops. And so we go through life like hamsters on a wheel.
Most of us do not have the least idea of how to get to know ourselves, to examine our own thought processes, and know what is really happening in our minds. We really need to delve deep inside our psyche so as to get to know ourselves better. As Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, succinctly puts it, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” In simple terms, do not go through life like a zombie; get some time for introspection. It is such a pity that most of us live like this and have never had an original thought in our lifetime: we seem to live a life of inherited thoughts and ideas.
Believe it or not, experts claim that on average the human brain processes between 60,000 to 80,000 separate thoughts per day. That means on average, our minds can compute a minimum of 2500 thoughts per hour (or 41 thoughts per minute) working on a 24 hour basis. Of course most of these are pretty much useless and banal musings not worth any further explorations. But we may also lose some gems as we cruise through life. This is where introspection and mindfulness come in. Once you are able to distinguish between the chaff and the gold, you are one step further up the enlightenment ladder, and journaling can help you climb up those rungs.
First of all, journaling, as a key to introspection, helps us organize our thoughts, follow that single thread, and untangle the jumbled mess in our minds. When you write down things in your mind, you concentrate on a specific thought, you wade into that chaotic mess in order to find that golden needle in a proverbial haystack. From that chaos, you select that one lucid thought that reveals who you really are at the core. Putting things down in a coherent way helps you still the mind and reach through the murk and tumult to the calmness within. This helps with mindfulness, a way to deeper enlightenment.
To emphasize the importance of calm and quiet time alone, Blaise Pascal, the philosopher, coined a phrase about humankind’s miseries arising from avoiding aloneness (see the graphic below). The roadblock to introspective journaling that most meet is that they are afraid of being alone with their thoughts. We seek to drown our own thoughts and ideas in useless conversations or with inebriating substances, rather than taking them and examining them closely to see where they might lead.
What we ought to do is sit still and write anything that comes to mind in a journal or on a sheet of paper or even an exercise book. It might seem scary at first or straight out stupid, but once you start, you will find it easy. The words will just roll out on their own. Most of the time you will be surprised by how much depth lies beneath those turbulent tides. Don’t be afraid of it, some of the things might be dark but that only proves that you are no longer in the shallows.
You will find out also that when you journal things you feel or think, most times it is cathartic just by itself (that is, it gives you relief, especially if you have experienced strong emotions). Don’t stop writing because you have had a bad day. You should write in your journal especially when you have gone through a stormy period. It helps you analyze your emotional makeup, your passions, desires, and inclinations in life. In the end, everything about yourself will come together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The various notes you write will be the ultimate map to self-awareness.
Deep introspection is easy to attain. All you need is time and the strength to face yourself in the mirror. Your true intentions and motives might scare you for a while but in order to understand yourself, you need to scrutinize yourself. So why not seek those few minutes alone, sacrificing just a little time to unwind and journey within the realms of your mind far from the madness of life? As the habit of journaling and mapping your inner landscapes takes root, you will find out that you will understand yourself better. Not only that, but you will also understand others a little more. This leads to better more fruitful, honest relationships.