Neat synthesis of the best evening journaling protocols, neuro-engineered for maximum positive effects, and now in a nothing-to-it-but-to-do-it format.
Millions of people write evening journals.
And like millions of others, I would write about things that happened that day for which I feel grateful.
Over the several years, I experimented with dozens of variations and found a few that really work well, at least for me.
I’ve taken bits from everyone from Martin Seligman to Oprah and Tim Ferriss, and added some neurolinguistic tunings.
I added five things to the basic Evening Journal, making it even more powerful and long lasting in effect:
- Receiving the presence of others as gifts of energy
- Inscribing a gratitude
- Single-word Breathitation on the gift received
- Pre-programming tomorrow
- Scorecard Effect
Combined they supercharge the positive, long-lasting effects.
Receiving the presence of others
This is the foundation of Gratitude, the willingness and capacity to receive the Presence of others as well as the Beauty around us, as gifts of energy.
And for those so predisposed, to receive those as gifts from the Universe.
Receiving the Presence of others means expanding to include the energies from another person or group.
Receiving the Presence of others requires an active engagement on our part, using a conscious intent to engage, receive and expand to include.
Receiving the Presence of others emphasizes the see-sense-feeling of the uniqueness of the other person, proactively dropping (at first) the natural urge to first put that person into a category, stereotype, or system.
Receiving the Presence of others requires being a bit more vulnerable and, yes, intimate, accepting that you may experience a sting or something unpleasant…and decide to proceed anyway.
Receiving the Presence of others, when practiced everyday, slowly but effectively dissolve Arrogance, Pride and Self-centeredness.
So, journaling about receiving the Presence of others constitutes practice in a safe place, your bed, while you develop the muscles and calluses for receiving others in real time.
As we journal every night, we’re flattening our reptilian brain to fight-flight-freeze-or-feign a response to “other / not me”.
Journaling your gratitudes each night trains our more primitive brain to open and receive the Presence of others.
Inscribing a Gratitude
I learned through years of practice that I could amplify the experience of being grateful by slowing down as I write out my gratitudes. (see also Inscribing Intentions].
By inscribe I mean that you write in long-hand, witnessing the physical sensations of writing, the intellectual meaning of each word as you write them, and the feelings that arise.
Inscribing a Gratitude means going deeper, staying longer, and stretching your capacity to experience.
Inscribing a Gratitude requires that you savor the subtle and nuanced aspects of what happened, the uniqueness of another’s Presence, their unspoken but felt way of being with you.
Inscribing a Gratitude emphasizes a call-and-response pattern from each sentence, casting your written expression of Gratitude into the vast silence of your inner world and listening to what comes back.
Inscribing a Gratitude starts a conversation with your higher Self or Soul, opening a two-way between the me-here-in-the-middle-of-Life and the I AM that exists beyond time, space, and demands of the physical world.
As we inscribe a particular Gratitude, we knock on Heaven’s Gate.
Most of us know the power of deliberate breathing.
The training of Navy SEALs includes the protocol of a 4-second breath intervals. Breath in for four seconds. Hold for four seconds. Exhale for four seconds.
They practice this a lot, making it a deeply ingrained at-will habit, one they can invoke under any battlefield condition.
I have modified this for use in Evening Journal of Gratitude.
I call it a Breathitation because it combines a 4-second breath protocol with a short meditation on the singular gift of someone’s Presence.
So I still journal the five things from earlier in the day for which I am grateful.
This entails my written acknowledgement of having received the gift of someone’s Presence, feel-sensing of the uniqueness and fullness of their Presence.
Then on a second pass through, I will focus again each event, asking “For me, what single quality captures the essence of this interaction?”
I then listen for a single word to pops up, a distillation of that experience for which I am most grateful.
Sometimes I nudge it along by suggesting a word, rarely now that I have trained my Cognitive Unconscious to come prepared.
Things like Perspective, Peace, Grit, Curiosity, Empathy, Honesty, or Love show up.
With this single-word distillation, I hold it in my mind’s eye as small vapor cloud, lit from within by a soft golden light.
Repeating the word (such as Peace), I inhale a golden vapor (representing Peace) for four seconds, as I hold my breath for four seconds, and as I exhale for another four seconds.
So the entire breath cycle takes about 17 seconds, all focused upon and immersed in a single Gratitude.
In the process, night after night, I am training my Cognitive Unconscious to receive and internalized a particular interaction of a gift.
I am also training my body to allow the new and potentially unsettling energies of another’s Presence to flow without resistance.
Finally this singular focus on a quintessential goodness for 17 seconds flips my neurocircuits into actively spotting and appreciating Gratitude in real time.
I consider the Scorecard Effect as one of best impact multipliers on learning Gratitude as a Second Language.
The Scorecard Effect takes advantage of how we learned to survive and thrive, starting in First Grade and all the way through College, graduate entrance exams and a thesis defense.
We have many tens of thousands of hours in which we learned a subject for the primary purpose of passing a test. Misguided, yes, but a fixture of our modern world.
We have deep and active neurocircuitry that goes live anytime we are put to a test, anytime someone, including ourselves, will use some sort of assessment to score our knowledge or actions.
So how does it work in an evening journal of Gratitude?
After I have inscribed my five Gratitudes, distilled each in a single-word gift, and performed a 17-second Breathitation, I will score my day.
With a quick scan of five Gratitudes and single-word gift, I ask myself,
On a scale of one to 10, how would you score having done your best in receiving the Presence of others and the Beauty of your world as a gift from the Universe?
At its core, this question be quite unsettling and a powerful catalyst for change.
Most evenings, I earn a score of 6 or 7. This represents a “scratch pass”, fair, below average, and needing improvement.
And, thus the honest truth. I suck at being naturally gifted at Gratitude.
HOWEVER, this gives me the opportunity, in the safety and comfort of bed, alone in my thoughts and feelings, to be candid and honest with myself.
And that is one of the best, most meaningful gifts that I can give to anyone and especially to myself: the opportunity to be candid and honest … first with myself, then with my wife and closest friends.
Wow. Just wow!
I learned decades ago and took as many decades to learn, I am capable of intimacy only to the extent and willingness that I am intimate with myself.
Wow. Ouch. OMG.
Steps towards transformational intimacy
Thus my scratch-pass scores of 6 or 7 on most evening send three powerful signals into my Cognitive Unconscious.
#1/ I am in the game and not in the bleachers. I playing with earnest intent. I aim to do my best. Yes, I still suck. Everyone but Prophets did. So just get on with it.
#2/ I have much still to learn, therefore (to paraphrase Winston Churchill), I much about which to be humble. I’m committed to learning how to lead with vulnerability and open hands. Yep, that sucks too. Abide. Breathe. Keep at it.
#3/ I am learning how to abide a certain amount of queasiness, wariness, and vulnerability about my current capacity to accept the Presence of others, using the emotional safety net of my bedroom and evening journal to take daily nano-steps closer towards a transformational intimacy. It’s an open mike Monday for comics to practice their craft.
In the background, deep waters stirring
The Scorecard Effect acknowledges that you’re in the game with the aim of learning how to play it well.
The Scorecard Effect shocks your system into taking future action.
The Scorecard Effect works by alerting the Cognitive Unconscious to spot prospective Gratitudes as they occur during the day.
added to my Evening Journal of Gratitude an inscribed intention for an evening’s restful sleep, spelling out how I would feel upon waking in the morning with energy and new insights.
So I would inscribe an intention with something like,
“Tonight, I will soon fall asleep, rising before 7 am with zest and new downloads for [bringing Gratitude Games to a billion mobile users].”
Tonight I intend to dream about mastery of gratitude, falling fast asleep upon the lights out and rising before 7 AM with zest and inspired downloads to realize tomorrow
This is another stroke in my reprogramming some of the reactive routines of Cognitive Unconscious.
After years of inscribing intentions at bedtime, I now bound out of bed with energy and mental buffer full of inspired, practical ideas, which flow right into my Daily Planning and through the rest of my day.