Writing and Life Series #4: On Pain and Healing Through Writing

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

How many of you write as a release? Write to get the ideas, thoughts, concerns, dreams, wishes, and hopes out of your head and into a format that you can read and reflect upon. Yes, no? Maybe?

For most of my life, I didn’t. I didn’t regularly write out any of the aforementioned. Not because I wouldn’t have found it beneficial, more because I didn’t really know how. Sounds funny. It is true though.

I would tinker with writing here and there, yet never really developed a system to do so. What I realize now is that having a systematic way you write, or enter into any creative process is, at least for me, very helpful.

It is how I can continue to do so. To write through my pain and heal.

I find that writing of any kind, on a whiteboard, in a journal, in a computer document, anything, is very therapeutic. Why? Because you can then study what you are thinking, instead of simply thinking about it.

There is an important distinction here.

If you only ever think about something, you don’t really do anything with it, with the exception of maybe obsessing over it or worrying about it. Which, in the end, does nothing to move you forward as a human being.

Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

What are some of the writing strategies I use to work through my pain and heal?

I have several different ways that I get ideas out of myself and into the world. And, all of them work well. For, it is really less about the strategy, than that you develop the habit of writing through any situation or context that you find yourself in. From pain toward healing.

Here are some strategies I use daily.

  1. Whiteboards – I have three at home, and many at work, which include a complete whiteboard wall in my office. Very helpful. And, yes, there is also pain and healing that happens at work. It’s not just in our personal life that we need a release for our pain, whether that is frustration or some other emotion we are working through. I actually think that it is in the writing, considering, and working through the pain that healing occurs.
  2. Post-its – on the go, these work very well. I will typically then collect them on a piece of paper, or tape them to a larger 2’x3′ post-it, so that I can play with the ideas. See what’s there, and what possibilities I can see for moving forward.
  3. Journaling – I don’t write in a journal as often today, yet it is still a strategy that I recommend. Especially if you are new to writing about your own pain.

Those are the top three I’ve used, and use daily. And, they all work well, and can be used in combination. Example.

I will also tape post-it’s to pieces of paper, and put them on my magnetic whiteboard. Good visual, and easy to move around, and play with.

Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

Why write through your pain to heal?

Because we all need the release. When we hold all of our pain inside, we cannot heal. It will reside within us, and actually make us ill. Not helpful.

Moving forward from pain, especially deep pain, requires visiting that pain often. Understanding it, working on it, and eventually releasing it. Carrying it around is unnecessary, though many people live this way.

Writing opens us up, and is a safe way to get out that which resides within. There are many different ways to write about pain. You can simply write about the pain, or you can create poems, or other stories about the pain.

What matters more than the writing medium you use, is that you provide yourself the opportunity to heal. Very important.

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Know also that it takes time to heal. You may write about something that is causing you pain, and not know healing from that pain for some time. For me, it also takes reflecting upon the pain in my writing.

When I can sit and contemplate that pain, I can see more, and have new insights. It is common for me to go back to something I’ve written several times before I can see a pathway to healing. Very normal.

How can you get started?

Start writing. Write on anything and at any time. Get your pain out of you and into the world so you can actually see it, and work on it. Important.

If you leave your pain inside of you, that is where it will always remain. Literally.

Choose times that work best for you, and create a habit of writing often. For it is in the healthy habit that you create to write about your pain often, that you have the best opportunity to know healing from that pain, and all pain.

Developing a healthy writing habit that is honest and reflective of the pain that lives inside of you creates a connection between your mind and your heart. And, it is inside of the connection between the two that all healing lives.

Write well and heal well.

#healing, #introspection, #journaling, #mind-and-heart, #mindfulness, #self-development, #self-inquiry, #strategies-for-healing-from-pain, #writing, #writing-about-pain, #writing-to-heal

3 Reasons Why Avoidance is an Ineffective Strategy

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Avoid much? We all do. However, some of us avoid more than others. Might that be you? It was me for a long time. Why do you imagine avoidance is an ineffective strategy? Not sure. Let’s take a look at three reasons why.

3 reasons why avoidance is an ineffective strategy

1. It is not healthy

When we avoid things, we are, in effect, continuing to hold those things within us. Continue to do that, and you will be carrying around a lot of unnecessary baggage. Tiring.

You would think that by avoiding things we are uncomfortable with, do not want to do, or face, that we are creating more space within us. However, that is not the way it works. It’s the idea of the situation we are faced with that will continue to haunt us. Especially, if we believe deep down that we should be doing that thing, or facing that situation.

Let me give you an example

For a long time, I did not pay attention to my calendar. Now, in the position I am currently in, that ineffective strategy will not work for long. At that time, I knew that I should be paying more attention to my calendar, working to schedule myself more effectively, however, I ignored it. Why?

I simply didn’t want to take the time needed to work through it. Simple. Instead, I avoided it at all costs. What happened? People began to ask why my calendar was such a mess. Nice. I love when those we trust inquire, and make us think. Helpful. As was digging into my calendar and making the necessary adjustments.

Before doing the work in my calendar, it bothered me every time I looked at it. However, by organizing and prioritizing my calendar, I traded a fixed amount of time to do the work, with a continuous mental distraction. More effective.

2. It keeps you stuck

When we spend our mental energy on avoiding things, we have less mental capacity to try and do new things. Essentially, we sacrifice some of our creative potential. How much is sacrificed? Depends on how much you avoid things. If you avoid often, then your creative potential will be severely impacted.

And, being stuck is no fun. Often, people are not even aware that they are stuck; nor do they recognize that they are avoiding things. The years I spent avoiding, I was aware of some of my avoidance, most I was not.

Here is another example

As I’ve written about in other posts, there was a time when I drank a lot. Too much. I knew that there was an issue, however, I made justifications and excuses for my behavior. Sort of a double burden. As my avoidance of the real issue, which at the time I was unaware of, was compounded by creating excuses and justifications. Exhausting. Really.

And, ultimately not helpful. Not physically, mentally, or spiritually. When living this way, you end up on the proverbial hamster wheel. Doing the same thing every day, knowing you are doing it, making excuses and justifications for doing so, all the while staying in place. No movement.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

3. You cannot grow

When we are avoiding, we are not moving; and, if we are not moving, we are not growing. Simple.

Growth is such an important part of the human experience. Some growth just comes our way. We didn’t invite it, yet it shows up on our doorstep. Some growth we actively seek out. We look for the opportunity. Either way, having experiences that help us grow is one of the most wonderful things about being human.

Yet, when we spend large amounts of time avoiding things, we are limiting our ability to grow. Why? Because, when we spend that much time avoiding things, we have no capacity to seek out growth opportunities. We are too busy. Too busy avoiding, and making excuses and justifications for why we are avoidant.

Final example

When I was working in the private sector, I took on a new assignment with a new sales team, and within 6-months, I was exhausted, and heavily avoidant. I went from a top-performing team, to a team that was in need of development. As was I.

Instead of welcoming the growth opportunity, however, I avoided it, and actually ended up leaving the company within another 3 months. Why? I was exhausted. That is true. Yet, why I was exhausted had less to do with the work, and more to do with my mental attitude.

I was avoiding the opportunity to grow, and making excuses and justifications for why it wasn’t working. Well, the only thing that wasn’t working was my thinking. And, that is okay. It is not a judgement. It happens to people all the time.

The point is to become aware of these types of opportunities. Being aware of how we avoid things creates the opportunity to better understand ourselves, and all of those around us. It also provides us the opportunity to grow, if we choose to engage with ourselves, inquire into our avoidance, and do something about it.

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

What can you do?

Here are three strategies I use to get out of my avoidance, and into action.

  1. Notice when you are avoiding something, and write it down – wiring it down creates more awareness about whatever it is that you are avoiding.
  2. Create time to reflect and contemplate – create the time necessary to better understand why you are avoiding the task or situation. Until you really know why, you will probably not move forward in that area of your life.
  3. Take an action – once you are clear on why you are avoiding something, take an action. Create a context to make some progress on the task or situation. It doesn’t mean that it will be complete, or solved, however, you will have moved forward.

When we are less avoidant, we have more time, more creative capacity, and more energy to do more things. Essentially, we can hold more. And, when we can hold more, and do more, we can be more.

Remember, we are all at times avoidant. Yet, if you find yourself more avoidant than you’d like to be, try some of the strategies outlined above, and get yourself moving again.

#avoidance, #becoming-unstuck, #creativity, #growth-and-development, #health, #mindfulness, #slef-development, #strategy, #taking-action, #well-being

Creating a Meditation Practice: 3 Steps in 4 Minutes

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

Have you ever tried to meditate? Been through classes on meditation, yet continue to struggle to do so? You are not alone. It is too often the case that people take “meditation” classes or yoga classes, and yet struggle to have an experience they feel should be reminiscent of meditation. Sound familiar?

Well, let’s take a look at three simple steps that you can take to create the space you need to take up a practice that’s been on this planet for thousands of years. And, we will take a look at these three steps in just four minutes. Ready? Alright, let’s go.

Step 1: Quite Space

First, you must find a space that is quite, away from distractions, as much as possible. Then, let those around you know that you need this time to be alone. One of the biggest challenges in creating a meditation practice, is creating the space you need to do so. And, you are the one that needs to create this space.

You can create this space, by creating a new boundary with those closest to you. Let them know that this is your time, and is needed, and necessary. Sounds simple, yet most people have boundary issues, and may push on the boundry you are creating. Hold firm. This is your time, and you deserve it.

When I started meditating almost three years ago, the above referenced boundary issue was something that I struggled with. Yes, you also have to hold yourself accountable to create that boundary within yourself. Important. If you don’t hold to the boundary you are creating, no one else will. And, you will be continuously interrupted. What will it take?

It will take you creating that boundary over and over again. Eventually, those closest to you will get that you are serious, and leave you alone. Be persistent.

Step 2: Focus on Your Breathing

The first year of my meditation practice, I called it breathing. Why? Because I didn’t know how to breath properly. Most people don’t. That’s okay. You can learn.

Here is what my first year looked like

  • 3 to 6 months – breathing for 5 minutes at a time, several times a day.
  • 6 months to year 1 – breathing 15 minutes at a time, twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening.

And, here is what years 2 and 3 have looked like

  • Year 1 to 18 months – meditating 20 to 30 minutes at a time, twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening.
  • 18 months to year 2 – meditating 30 to 45 minutes at time, twice a day – once in the morning, and once in the evening.
  • Year 2 to today – meditating 45 minutes to 1 hour at a time, mostly once a day, though sometimes twice. Second time being 30 minutes in the evening.

The important thing to note, and remember, is that it’s taken almost 3 years to go from breathing for 5 minutes, to meditating for an hour most days. Slow. Creating a meditation practice is not about how fast you can do it. It’s about taking your time, yet being persistent. Building the healthy habit, slowly and methodically.

Photo by Tim Goedhart on Unsplash

Alright, when you are ready, here is a guide to your first 5-minute breathing exercise

  • Sit comfortably. You DO NOT have to sit in the lotus position. Actually I recommend not sitting like that. Simply sit in a sturdy chair, back straight, yet relaxed, hands resting on your thighs.
  • Set a timer, or a meditation app, if you have one for 5 minutes.
  • Close your eyes, and take a couple deep breaths, breathing in through your nose, and out through your nose. Slowly, deeply.
  • Now, breath normally, still in through your nose, and out your nose. And, as you breath in focus your attention on the air making its way through your nostrils – can you feel the cool air coming in? If not, that’s okay, then focus on the tip of your nose. If you can, focus on the air coming in through your nostrils.
  • As thoughts arsie, let them. If you begin to focus on them, that’s okay. When you begin to focus on a thought, simply bring your attention back to the air coming in through your nostrils, or back on the end of your nose.
  • And continue to repeat the above again and again. Thoughts arise, you notice, may even engage with them, then notice you are engaging, and refocus on your breath. Again, and again.

If you’ve just completed your first 5 minutes of breathing, nice job. You are on your way.

Step 3: Practice

Whether you are meditating for 5 minutes at a time, or an hour. Creating and maintaining a meditation practice, takes just that, practice. You must be willing to make meditation a priority in your life. It is like any healthy habit we want to develop; it takes persistence to build a regular habit.

The coolest thing about developing this habit, is that once you’ve done it for a couple of months, you will demand that space of yourself. Really, you will. You will hold yourself accountable to create that space; and, as you hold yourself to that standard, those closest to you, if they aren’t getting it, will.

And, the more you practice, the more benefits you will realize about incorporating meditation into your life. There are many. One of my favorite benefits, is that I have time for myself. Time to be quiet, away from all technology, and all people. We all need that time.

Practicing meditation is about learning how to focus your attention, as your mind continues to be busy. And, believe me, it will be. Yet, as we’ve discussed, let the thoughts come. It’s okay. And, as they come, notice when you are paying attention to them, instead of your breathing, and then refocus your attention on your breath.

Remember, creating a meditative practice takes time. Building this practice is not something that will happen overnight. It won’t, so relieve yourself of that pressure right now; and when you are ready, find a quiet space, focus on your breathing, and practice.

#attention, #breathing, #focus, #health-benefits, #meditation, #mindfulness, #persistence, #practice, #wellness

The Sociological Imagination and Mindfulness: Knowledge Acquisition, Thoughtful Choice, and Possibility

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

When people think of, and talk about, mindfulness, they are usually drawing from a frame that mostly focuses on the individual and their psychology. That is the most popular way to think about mindfulness.

However, I think there are possible benefits to considering mindfulness from a sociological perspective, which might have implications for society as a whole.

Let’s first take a look at what mindfulness is, which will require examining the psychology of mindfulness. We will also take a practical look at the practice of mindfulness, and lastly will consider a new way to look at mindfulness, which is through a sociological perspective.

Mindfulness and Individual Psychology

I’ve practiced mindfulness and meditation the past couple of years. Though relatively new to mindfulness and meditation, I do know that mindfulness, and the theory and practice of it, are focused on the individual and their psychology.

Mindfulness is about focusing one’s attention on the present moment, on the thoughts that are occuring in that present moment, and the emotions and bodily sensations that accompany those thoughts (Lexico, 2020).

It is about becoming more aware of how your thoughts drive your behavior, and how that behavior, then, is a product of your thinking.

I’ve written in other posts that humans are programmed to create narratives, or stories, about their experiences. It is how people make sense of the world. However, when you create stories about your perceived reality, these thinking patterns can also overdramatize reality, which can cause pain and suffering.

Though we can speak of mindfulness as a theory, it is best, in my opinion, talked about in regard to practicing mindfulness.

Practicing Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness is about creating an awareness around the way you think so you can disrupt negative thinking patterns, and replace them with positive ones. You can also think about it like, replacing those overly dramatic thought patterns, or stories, with reality. Creating distinctions between what really happened, and what you believe happened based upon your overly dramatized thoughts.

And, of course the thoughts that we draw upon to create an overly dramatized story are grounded in past experiences. These experiences can be something that happened recently, however, often they are from long ago, such as childhood experiences.

Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash

When we create a storied reality, rather than experiencing reality as it is, or as it is happening, we are creating the possibility, and probability of more suffering.

Humans are drawn to drama. Drawn to creating it, and living in it, yet it is not the only way to live. We can shift our thinking by practicing mindfulness, creating increased awareness within ourselves that recognizes when we are living in our heads, as it were, instead of living in the moment.

Meditation is another tool utilized in a mindfulness practice. Practicing meditation can slow down the reactive mind, increasing the possibility of noticing when you are creating negative thought patterns, or are confusing reality with a story from long ago.

There is a lot of research on mindfulness and the distinct advantages on overall mental health, which is why we mostly see mindfulness written about in regard to the individual, or psychology. However, after practicing mindfulness for a couple of years, I can see far reaching implications for employing mindfulness across society.

However, before we look at mindfulness and the potential positive impacts on society, let’s take a look at the study of sociology, which takes group behavior as its research focus.

Sociology and the Sociological Imagination

The study of sociology is the study of group behavior. More importantly, it is the understanding that can develop when one considers their place within a broader social context (Mills, 1959).

In 1959, C. Wright Mills wrote:

What they need, and what they feel they need, is a quality of mind that will help them to use information and to develop reason in order to achieve lucid summations of what is going on in the world and of what may be happening within themselves. It is this quality, I am going to contend, that journalists and scholars, artists and publics, scientists and editors are coming to expect of what may be called the sociological imagination (Mills, 1959).

In short, the sociological imagination is about understanding your place within a given society, or cultural context. It is about understanding how the social construction of that society or culture impedes, and or advances your particular milieux.

Photo by Katie Jowett on Unsplash

With that knowledge, one can better understand how their own personally context, and associated socialization and development, to a certain degree, were shaped by the social or cultural order in which they live.

That you are embedded within a broader social context, and having an awareness of how that context functions, is important to how you think, feel, and behave. It also helps us understand people in our context, those we know, and those we don’t, yet interact with.

Sociology and the Sociological Imagination in particular, help us understand the broader context within which we live, which provides us more information about how we relate to that social or cultural context, and how others in our immediate context also relate to that social or cultural context. Simply, it provides us more knowledge and a new way to think about and see our environment.

The Sociology of Mindfulness

When I think about the sociology of mindfulness , I’m thinking about people using mindfulness to gain an even deeper understanding of 1) their particular position in the social and or culture order in which they live; and, 2) how the knowledge of their position in the social and cultural context combined with practicing mindfulness might create more time for people to choose their next actions more thoughtfully.

As I’ve described in other posts, humans have reactive minds, which means that we often react to our environment with little time to think about the actions that we are creating and taking.

Mindfulness is the practice, as was aforementioned, of slowing down that reactive process. When the reaction process is slowed down, we have more time to choose the next action we want to take.

Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

If we have an increased likelihood of choosing a next action that we have actually considered thoughtfully, we have the opportunity to actual create new ways of being, understanding, and living. If we do not, we simply reproduce actions that we’ve taken before. And, if we create these new choices within a social or cultural order in which we fully understand, we have more power.

This, then, for me is the crux of the sociology of mindfulness. The intersection of conscious choice, and our own individual relationship to and within the social and cultural order in which we live.

When I searched the internet for the sociology of mindfulness, most of what I found was describing using mindfulness inside of sociology classes (WW Norton and Company, Inc. 2014). I also found one that talked directly about the sociology of mindfulness, and the possible impacts of considering mindfulness in regard to self-management and personhood (Huesken, 2019).

I did not, however, find an article that directly addressed the ramifications of practicing mindfulness on the social or cultural order. Though I did not find an article addressing the aforementioned, I do believe that practicing mindfulness is important to both the individual and the society or culture in which they live.

Further, I believe that developing a sociological imagination alongside a mindfulness practice may help people:

  • Better position themselves in their social or cultural contexts
  • Develop a state of mind that allows them to understand the social and cultural contexts more deeply in regard to their own individuality
  • Create more time to choose actions more thoughtfully within these contexts.

I’ve studied sociology for many years, and have practiced mindfulness and mediation these past couple of years; the combination of which, have created a deeper understanding for me of my position within the social order, and of the benefit of having more time to think and choose my next actions more thoughtfully.

When we have the time we need to choose our actions more thoughtfully, and are armed with more knowledge about the society in which we live, we create new possibilities for ourselves and all of those around us.


Lexico. (2020). Lexico, Powered by Oxford. URL.

Mills, C W. “The Promise [of Sociology]” Excerpt from The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press, 1959. URL.

W.W. Norton and Company Inc. (2014). Sociology and Mindfulness Meditation. URL.

Huesken, Aaron. (2019). Mindfulness, Self, and Society: Toward a Sociological Critique of Mindfulness Based Interventions. Queen’s University
Kingston, Ontario, Canada. April 2019. URL.

#mindfulness, #social-and-cultural-order, #sociology, #the-sociological-imagination, #thoughtful-choices