Keeping Your Mind in the Present Moment

July 15, 2019
Ink wash and a little white gouache in a Green-lined journal.

Seems like you can’t turn around these days without someone telling you to keep your mind in the present moment.

I tell my students that all the time.

I have told students for 30 years that being able to keep your mind in the present moment is one of the main benefits of journaling.

I’m usually pretty good at keeping my mind in the present moment.

This year, however, between cataract operations, I worried about catching a cold—which for me always means bronchitis. (Thinking like that is not keeping your mind in the present moment, even if it seems like “Truth.”) 

I actually did get ill. Something low grade. I sucked on a lot of zinc tablets, drank a lot of water, and journaled with one eye healing and another eye not useful, throughout the day. I had three journals going. I picked one up every time my mind started to drift into the “what if.” I wrote things out of my system. I focused on things I could take action on. I started laughing at myself every time I picked up a journal.

I didn’t catch bronchitis. My nose and lungs cleared. I hardly coughed. I was able to have my second cataract surgery on schedule and move on.

This is just one reason on a list too long to number, that I am grateful for my journal practice.

    • ross
    • July 15, 2019

    I’ve had both my cataracts done too. Certainly knocked me around a bit. The applied boredom relieved by talking books. I have some journal entries written when I couldn’t really see with words shaped by memory and lines running askew, but I really just hit like and got a comment box so I’ll ad something.

    1. Reply

      Ross, I’m glad you were able to get through it and have journal entries made when you could only shape words by memory! I think those are valuable pages to hang on to.

    • Kat
    • July 15, 2019

    I had both cataract lens replaced in April/May and don’t know how you managed to journal between procedures. Everything was so clear and bright thru the new lens and so blurred and sepia toned thru the old one (and no glasses to accommodate). So much better after both are done.
    I developed some macular edema right after my all good post op visit that threw me for a loop. It caused patches of blurred vision in central field of vision. It’s treated with more of drops and sight is improving to clear. It did scare me a little as a “what if,” but I pressed on to draw and paint and saw that I could deal with it. Keep on keepin’ on!

    1. Reply

      Kat, Total fear after the first surgery made me do it, sometimes with over the counter glasses for near work because they couldn’t come up with prescriptions for me until things settled down, and sometimes by closing the cataract eye, or sometimes using the clear eye. And so it went.

      I was just talking to Dick today about how the the journal (from which today’s post’s image comes from), and another one I happened to have in my hand at the moment gave a wonderful chronology of line quality. I can’t not write about my process.

      Glad you are keeping on!

  1. Reply

    Oddly, my first impression of your journal spread is that it bears resemblance to the Codex Leicester. by Da Vinci. Like Leonardo, you are endeavoring to dissect and portray the world about you. It’s been 40 years since I did visual journaling (complete with self-analytical sidebar notes). I should start up again.

    1. Reply

      Ha, Ha, you’re too funny Richard. Though I am dissecting the world as you say. Now that you have brought up that you once kept a visual journal, with complete self-analytical sidebar notes (Mine are in the back pages upside down or in a separate book all together) I will have to take an active part in getting you to start again! Be afraid!

    • Corinne McNamara
    • July 15, 2019

    I developed glaucoma because of a medication problem 10 yrs ago. Treatment was successful, but cataracts were a side effect. Not being able to see well enough to read or drive was horrible. I was so grateful for the surgery. I read and drive and see colors without an ecru haze, but my vision isn’t what it was 20 yrs ago, and my eye muscles get tired more quickly.

    I love how you used journaling for coping! I’m using art – the more I do, the better I feel. Art activities that didn’t need strong visual skills replaced crafts I couldn’t do as easily anymore. Focusing on drawing and painting improved my skills much more than I ever expected—another side effect of eye problems!

    1. Reply

      Corinne, I’m so glad that your eye treatments have been successful and that you’re doing more and more art. I hope that you continue on that path!

  2. Reply

    I enjoy seeing your spreads that include journaling notes. It’s a piece I’m struggling with – including my thoughts as well as a drawing. There’s so much I’m trying to figure out now that I have a journal for rambling and the sketch book for mainly impersonal notes about the drawing or the day. I would like the sketch book notes to be more personally reflective. Or at least show some personality. It helps to see how you handle it. I expect the other journals you maintain go in deeper.

    1. Reply

      Maery, remember that I was journaling for decades before I started putting journal pages up on the internet for my students. (I did this because early on I realized I just couldn’t carry all the journals that had this example of that and that example of this to every class I was teaching—and at the same time let the students rummage through my life looking at pages that contained unresolved issues. It would undermine the way I keep a journal and why I keep a journal. So, all that said, it was relatively easy for me to make decisions about what would be shown on the blog and I don’t feel any constraints about what I put on my pages (especially the ones I don’t show to people). Currently, I’ve been showing some of my cataract journal pages because it will become important later for blog readers to understand what has been happening and how I have come to the decisions I’ve come to.

      My advice to you is that the easiest way to have a journal that is reflecting the whole you is to combine everything into one journal, and clarify to yourself that you are your audience, and then just go for it.

      For me, one of the fun things that has happened this year is that in order to hold on to sanity and see parts of myself get stripped away I returned to my “comfort food” method of journaling, which is what you see in the green lined journal pages. There’s a whole post on that coming up in August I think, or Sept. It’s like being in college again. And it is so freeing. While I might show some of these pages during this time period to use as examples for others dealing with similar issues, all the pages from these journals will never be public, especially the mostly text pages. And these will never leave the house! People won’t be paging through them.

      I believe that there are certain things we need to keep private at least until we have “finished” them, “put them ‘in-context'” for ourselves, or finished the projects they outline for us.

      The best thing you can do is dive in and start doing exactly what you want in your journal. The sooner the better. If you can’t do it all in one journal don’t sweat it. I have journals that are mostly portraits and animals at the zoo, a purse journal for when I’m out and about…I am happiest when I have one journal that contains it all, but even I know that it’s not going to work that way now. There are times when I need lovely watercolor paper to practice what needs practicing. There are times when I need a grid-lined journal to respond to my day, to capture the jumble of things that matter to me today.

      Your journal needs to be useful to you. If you make it useful to you it will reflect you. Whether other people see it that way, or even see what it really reflects isn’t possible, unless you give them the entire book and let them read it all. I don’t think that’s healthy.

      1. Reply

        Thanks Roz for taking so much time to respond. Coming from a writing only practice, then beginning an art journal, then trying to find a way that fits my needs to combine the two and handle the “good” paper versus “don’t care” (composition notebook) paper has thrown me off. I realize it’s silly as I love the look of your artwork done in your notebooks. Thank you again for your suggestions. I have a future biking camping trip planned to (hopefully) show myself my body can do that again with some modification to my distance and what I carry. Now I at least know I don’t need to bring two journals. 😉

        1. Reply

          Maery, I wrote about these issues all the time on the blog. Nothing is silly about selection of a journal. It needs to fit for you. Enter “Journal Selection” in the blog’s search engine and you’ll find posts about this. And also posts about keeping more than one journal simultaneously. There isn’t a right or wrong about it. Everyone has to find out first how they think about the options and what the options mean to their practice (does it stunt it, then change is needed), then they have to make some choices about who their audience is (I recommend it be you) and what they hope to do in the journal. If you go through that process it really is test driving different options until you find one that works and gets you what you want. I’ve been doing this my entire life so I have had a lot of time to test drive. I also enjoy looking at my process, understanding that process, and removing impediments to that process.

          That last little bit, about looking at your process and removing impediments is key.And it’s FUN!

          Keep in mind too that you’ll change over the course of your life. You may find that you’re working on learning watercolor techniques and only watercolor paper will be suitable for a journal (and yes, gasp you’ll have to write on some art paper, but hey, it’s fun to do that). Other times it won’t matter.

          Start here with Choosing a journal size
          Everything is interrelated so if you choose a large size suddenly the smaller pens don’t “work” or take forever to fill up a page, and so on.

          A fun adventure. Good luck on your biking trip!

    • Pat Cameron
    • July 16, 2019

    I love that you are so honest with what is going on in your life and also your fabulous artistic ya talent.
    Keep those journals going Roz and keep laughing. We all appreciate you and your love of what you do!

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