I will be honest that all of the years of medical training, starting a practice, and raising a family took their toll on me. A tremendous toll, one that comes with trying to keep too many balls in the air for far too long. I appeared on the surface like I had it together, but under the surface, things felt quite different. I often felt distracted, overwhelmed, and stressed. I had a difficult time sleeping, and couldn’t unwind, even on the weekends or when on vacation. I wasn’t paying attention to my kids, even when I was physically present with them. I rarely felt relaxed.
I gave my patients all sorts of advice about how to manage their stress, but I couldn’t follow my own advice, which only made me feel guilty. One of the hardest things for me was being kind to myself–my self critical voice was strong and loud. Even though I was “doing” all the things that I wanted to do, and felt I should do, I just wasn’t able to drop down enough into the moment to be fully present and take it all in.
It was this gap–between my head and my life–that I kept trying to bridge. This was what initially led me to study mindfulness from a mental health and scientific standpoint. I slowly began to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into my life. I did my best to sit for 20 minutes a day and slow my mind. Instead of finding peace, I found myself in continued battle with my thoughts. I went to mindfulness workshops and retreats and read books in an effort to continue to move through my thoughts and experiences with non judgmental awareness. I still had a difficult time translating my knowledge into my embodied experience of my life. To be honest, I felt frustrated at how difficult it was to practice simply “being in the moment.”
It was at this point that I literally bumped into Cayce, my new neighbor and friendly meditation teacher, in our mental health clinic. Despite our vastly different backgrounds, we had a shared love of mindfulness, meditation, writing, mental health, and perhaps most importantly, a mission to end the suffering of others. Through infrequent coffees and lunches and meditations, we continued to envision a collaboration where we could make sense of our similarities and differences in a way that could not only help us, but those struggling across the globe.
We just didn’t know exactly how we were going to do that (minor problem).
One day, I woke up, and sat for my daily meditation as usual. Then, after meditating, in a new turn of events, I opened the pages of my journal. I let the pen lead me where I needed to go. I noticed that by combining meditation and journaling, both practices became inherently deeper and more revealing. It was in this moment, post combined meditation and journaling, that I suddenly discovered a sense of clarity and peace that I had not felt in a very long time.
Something had shifted, and actually stayed shifted for a long time.
I began to experiment with different types of prompts, meditations, and reflections. What emerged for me was a process, a bringing together of not only meditation and journaling, but also my background in writing, narrative medicine, and psychiatry.
I realized that this process allowed me to bring my entire self to my meditation practice. I was also making connections through writing that brought a greater understanding of myself, to myself. I was no longer struggling with my thoughts during meditation, because they had their moment on the page. From that day forward, I continued to integrate meditation–which opened and stilled my mind–with journaling, which allowed all of my emotions and creative energy to arise into that empty space and flow onto the paper.
When I shared my new experiences with Cayce, he immediately got it. He shared his own personal wisdom gained from years of meditation, teaching, retreat, art, and poetry. He intuitively understood the value of bringing language, thinking, and words together with mindfulness and meditation. Slowly, thoughtfully, we began piecing together a methodology based on our cumulative experience and knowledge, that anyone, anywhere, could do. We wanted it to be easy, fun, accessible, and life changing.
The InWord process brings me a sense of relief and spaciousness in the midst of the “full catastrophe”–all of the real life that comes along with marriage, children, a career, pets, and everything else. It is not only my self awareness practice, but also my self-development practice, and my problem-solving, way to happiness practice.
It is my hope that sharing InWord brings you the same relief, and that you join me in our very imperfect effort to be present for this one precious life. I can’t imagine anything more important, or rewarding, than doing that, together.