I first heard about a spiritual diary, when I lived in the Ashram in the Bahamas. As a Karmayogi there, you have once a week a sadhana meeting with one of the Swamis. You sit together with a group of other Karmayogis talking about how practice (meditation and hatha yoga) is going, how you feel and also if you have any question belonging your practice, your Karmayoga or if any other issue is coming up. During the week you are ask to write a spiritual diary – which is one sheet of paper with various sections like, wake up time, attendance in morning and evening Satsang, etc. I liked this meetings. It was nice to have the opportunity to personally ask the Swami different things and it was always good to hear, that other people were struggling with the same kind of stuff during their stay in the ashram :) But the diary… it somehow just did not stick to my mind to write it regularly, so it happened that I just forgot doing it. And - like it often happens with homework during school - I sometimes ended up writing the whole thing 10 minutes before the meeting started, hardly remembering what was going on during the week. By now you probably ask yourself: Why - in god’s name - is she telling me then that I should write a diary? I know, till here what I say is not a great promotion FOR doing it. But listen further!
Time passed by. In some weeks I really tried to focus more on it but in the end again, I filled in maybe 3 days and the rest... empty white columns again. The same happened by the way also in the 2 month I stayed in the Yoga Ranch. Somehow it just did not work for me.
And then I left the Ashram. I started traveling, did not have the same routine like I used to have for almost 5 months. Moving from one place to another, staying in hostels or in the house of a friend. I knew it would be very different. Finding the time as well as the space would be a lot more challenging than in the months before. So I started my time “outside” with a strong intention of keeping my practice stable and I also decided to give it another try and write my own spiritual diary. It was kind of similar, but I put it into my small book I got from my mom and I rearranged some things... And you know what happened? Suddenly it worked. Even more, it helped me to find a bit more of the stability I needed in those months of moving a lot and finding myself in so many different situations.
Today I think, maybe I could have been more focused on it during the month inside the Ashram. But I was not and that’s also ok. Back then I knew that I would go to satsang and meditate twice a day for 30 minutes and either go to one of the yoga classes or do my own practice, because it is the routine when you live in the Ashram. I think there was not such a big need for me personally to do it. (of course for the sadhana meeting and the Swami it would have been nice ;)) But "outside" it was and it is different. Sometime it happens that I travel a lot, long days on buses or planes, or I stay in places (hostels, dorms…) where it is really difficult to find the right time and space to fit in my practice.
So in the end you have to decide for yourself if you want to give it a try and look if it works for you. But as you can see out of my history with it, there are times where it really can help you to find stability with it. It can be a daily reminder for your practice or just for being a bit more conscious of what is going on in your life (even if you did not have the time to practice, grab the diary and note down a few sentences about your day, or just check how you felt during the day. I am sure it will help you to get more aware of things going on in your life and in yourself.)
Another advantage I want to mention before coming to the end is, that you can use it as a notebook when you are gradually work on things. For example you can step by step increase the rounds of sun salutation and note it down or increase retention in pranayama, or sit longer in meditation etc. or maybe you want to focus more on certain asanas, but also beyond the hatha yoga practice, maybe you are working through or on some personal emotional things. You can also use it to reflect on that. Make notes and write down if you have questions and talk to a teacher about it. Use it as a tool!
Just a warning in the end! Don´t be too strict with yourself. If you find yourself not doing your practice for a few days or
- better call it - "a while" because there was so much going on in work, or you had troubles with your partner or a friend or whatever. These kind of things happen and it is just normal to lose
track sometimes. As I said before: Use the diary as a reminder, because especially in these times, when you maybe do not feel so well or you are stressed, your practice can be like a “lifesaver”.
Finding the time and space just for yourself, to connect, to feel your breath, to slow everything down and find space inside yourself and clean up your mind from every day’s business can really
make a huge difference for your own personal well being.
From time to time I still have periods where I find myself struggling with my practice. (Especially the meditation, for me
personally the most unstable part of my sadhana). This is why, in the first place I wrote the article about “how to keep your daily practice”, because I just know too well how hard it can be to
step on the mat. So just know that it is normal and human, if your practice sometimes kind of does not exist and you find yourself hardly getting out of bed before 8am or trying to find excuses
why this evening it will not be possible to show up in the yoga class. Nobody is perfect. Just do your best and after all don’t forget to practice Selflove :)
Below you find a spiritual diary. Feel free to download. Use it as it is or change it to the form you feel comfortable with.
A few explanations:
K...Kapalabhati how many rounds
AV...Anuloma Viloma how many rounds and ratio
Surya Namaskar...Sun salutation how many rounds
Svadhyaya...study (what book are you reading)
Today´s Notes... here feel free to describe what is going on mentally, emotionally, physically, or write down if you did something good for you or for others
Also in each of the other sections, you can write down in a few words how you felt or what you experienced.