Why Journaling Is a Powerful Wellness Exercise for Everyone, Everywhere: A Q&A with R.A. Leslie
Embracing Ayurveda is a wellness choice available to everyone. Whether it is done in smaller, consistent steps or in grander, ambitious strides, this ancient science of medicine is brimming with the keys to live the healthiest, happiest, most balanced life. And despite its 5000-year-old history, it's more modern than ever. That's why in this series, Ayurvedic Extensions, the UMA team features simple, present, and perhaps unexpected ways Ayurveda can be woven into daily life.
R.A. Leslie was twelve-years-old when she started journaling. She bought a little white diary with a purple rhinoceros on it. As the ink touched the paper it was charged with her "twelve-year-old thoughts." It was freeing. It was also private and safe, a sacred practice between her and her thinking. And each time she finished, she would lock the pages with a tiny key.
This practice—a curious and deliberate exercise in self-care—was a harbinger of Leslie's future. Today she is a transformational coach, speaker, and author. Leslie works with her clients to go deep, helping them to discover pain points and trauma, and untap creativity. And she credits the formation of her methodology, as well as the basis of her books and creative journal, to her life-long practice of writing down her thoughts. "Journaling," she says, "literally created my life and healed it."
The daily practice of expressing and concretizing your thoughts on paper, journaling has long been an emblem of self-care. Studies have shown it to be association with lower levels of anxiety and depression, a boost in cognitive skills, stronger immunity, and an increase in quality of sleep. A completely free and accessible exercise, journaling is also connected to greater creative flow. Like tuning the radio, when you put your raw emotions and ideas on paper suddenly you find the station of clarity.
This vulnerable outpouring of thoughts also coincides with an Ayurvedic principle: that a thriving emotional, spiritual, and mental state is essential for overall balance and health. "The suppression of emotions, I feel, are the most dangerous," says Leslie, "and one of the reasons many do not resolve past traumas— and this can lead to illness." Safe, solitary, contemplative writing can help with discovery and healing. It's all connected, believes Leslie who uses her deep affinity for the ancient Sanskrit text, Bhagavad Gita, to further illustrate the connection between journaling and Ayurveda. She imagines that the sages who wrote the sacred texts of India had to have kept journals. "If we listen and pay attention, journaling can show us our authentic voice," she says "and remind us that our voice is linked to the voice of the universe, where all secrets are unlocked."
A Q&A with R.A. Leslie
How does the journaling process work?
Journaling works by simply writing out your thoughts and feelings and then looking at them objectively. No one is watching you or judging you.
When we write out our thoughts and feelings we are having a conversation with our subconscious and our heart. Sometimes our journaling could simply be a venting fest—and that is useful too. The contrasting feelings we have allows us to see where our head is at with a particular relationship or situation.
When do you recommend people journal? And how often?
Morning. noon, and night. More specifically, first thing in the morning, a few thoughts during the day, and then a closing journaling during the evening. The evening journaling is a powerful way to set one’s intentions for the following day and then allow the subconscious to remember the good intentions you had in your mind right before sleep.
I keep a journal with me at all times. Even random thoughts are important to jot down. If you are driving you can do a voice memo and then expand on that thought when you journal. I created an entire greeting card line from random journal thoughts.
What are the parameters? Are there any ideas, words, emotions, or narratives you recommend people lean into? Any you recommend steering clear of?
That is a really great question! It all depends on what journal you are using and where you are at in your life. All emotions have value and need to be addressed. Sometimes I like to look at the contrasting emotions, negative narratives first and then see a positive alternative. It is important to write out the deep feelings and emotions so not to suppress them. The suppression of emotions, I feel, are the most dangerous and one of the reasons many do not resolve past traumas. And this can lead to illness. These emotions may be too painful to review but we need to review, reflect, and discover the source of our pain as well as our joy. One of the ways we can do this is by understanding where the emotions come from and then writing them down and discussing them with a trusted friend, therapist, or coach.
You published your journal—WHEN—this year. How does your journal offer guidance?
The WHEN journal is designed to stir feelings and emotions in the adult self and at the same time bring the individual back to the wounded child emotions and feelings they may still carry with them. We all have wounds and sometimes they are clear memories and messages and other times they are suppressed. The person can uncover them by answering questions the journal asks. An example from the journal is: Think of a memory from your childhood that is positive or negative and write about it. Be as detailed as possible…. The WHEN journal asks you to remember. The WHEN journal works with identifying negative messages, changing the feeling from negative to positive and then by focusing on inspiring thoughts and one’s dreams. The negative habits are eventually replaced with a feeling of hope and positivity for one’s present and future life—this is a healthy way we can authentically move on from our pasts and lead an integrated life.
What are the benefits? What does it unlock?
The benefits are that through journaling we can understand the wisdom locked inside of ourselves and that we hold the key to our souls. When one practices journaling for a while they see the benefits firsthand and we unlock the magic contained inside of ourselves. It takes time to heal. Journaling can help you heal. It takes time to remedy the past. Journaling can help one to understand their past. I always recommend saving one’s journals and looking at past entries once in a while to see how they have grown, what areas are still triggers and what themes they continue to create in their life that are negative. When we continually check in with our internal dialogue that we now see on a black and white page, we cannot hide from ourselves.
How does journaling fit into someone's overall wellness practice?
Regular practice of journaling is likened to having the highest relationship with your soul—as is meditation. They are unequivocally linked. You literally go into a silent gap in meditation and pull forth soul language. No one will ever know you better than you know yourself and journaling is your soul’s tangible companion.
How can one further harness the benefits?
When you look at the great minds of our current times and past you will see that they all journaled. Leonardo Da Vinci, Edison, Einstein, Emily Dickinson, and Hilma af Klint just, to name a few. Their journals led them to their passions and ultimately journaling was a tool that was the precursor to their genius. Imagine: We have between 65,000 and 90,000 thoughts a day. If you don’t journal however can you keep track of the important ones? Many thoughts are repetitive, negative and pointless, but in between one thought and another there is a pearl. Snatch that and lay it onto a crisp white page and you will see that soon you have a beautiful string of opalescent gems defining your life.
To learn more about R.A. Leslie and her practice, Seeuatnoon, visit: seeuatnoon.com.