17. Writing feels like the opposite of meditation

With certain types of meditating the goal is to notice one’s thoughts but not to cling to them. To notice thoughts as sensations of the mind and to notice the sensations of other parts of the body, feeling your butt and legs against the seat, feeling the wind in your nostrils. It’s easy to catch one’s self several moments later deep down the path of a particular thought, but with this kind of meditation there’s a focus on returning to the noticing. To not follow the thought, or to not allow the thought to consume you without you noticing.

Writing, especially journalling, feels like the opposite. There’s a sense of looking around internally for any interesting threads, and then starting to pull on them intentionally. Putting words on paper as you pull in more thread almost as a sort of byproduct of the internal mental pathfinding. With writing the goal is explicitly to go down a given path and to pursue it as far as it’ll go.

When thinking without writing there’s a tendency to come back to a previous thought, to repeat a thought in little circles, to get stuck. But with writing combined with thinking the written word acts as a scaffold to ensure continued progress. Getting the words on paper helps to break out of thinking the same thought and helps to bring about the next thought.

One way I’ve noticed the interaction between writing and meditation is that getting a thought out onto paper can help me let go of it in my mind. When I’m clinging to a thought it’s usually because the thought feels important, that I want to make sure I save it. After writing something down, there’s a sense of calm knowing that I won’t lose it forever. This whole sense of attachment seems unrelated from how good the thought ‘actually’ is, in terms of whether I come back to it or continue to think the thought was a good thought. We’ve probably all had the experience of jotting down something important before falling asleep only to wake up the next morning and look at it skeptically. “Why’d I think this was so important?”. Nonetheless, jotting it down still allows for a clearing of the attachment feeling and makes it easy to let go of in one’s mind and to relax.

This is not something I’ve reflected on much, the idea came to me last night while falling asleep and I’ve written this mostly in the spirit of ‘pulling on the thread’ as alluded to. I’ve tried a quick google search but haven’t found anyone reflecting on the interaction between writing and meditation in this same kind of way.

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