THE BLOG
10/05/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Writing As Meditation

Franz Kafka revealed the weirdness of thought, the profoundness of thought, and the commonality of thought in his writings. The writings he left upon death to his friend Max Brod with orders to be destroyed have surfaced in a new book, "The Tremendous World I have Inside my Head" (by Louis Begly), perhaps the best title I've ever heard to describe the complex universe of mind. His thoughts, written down for his own reflection, take on a life of their own that can be hard to destroy.

Many of us keep diaries or journals full of our individual thoughts, experiences, and feelings. The art of writing out ones thoughts has a therapeutic side to it (as in narrative therapy): in the process of writing the thoughts or emotions are somewhat 'distanced' from the "I" experiencing them. There arises a tiny 'space' between the 'I' and the experience so that we can explore, study, evaluate the experience and its effects more objectively.

Writing can be a form of meditation, of inward exploration of mind.

We can 'read' other people's thoughts through such personal writings. Marcus Aurelius, the Emperor of Rome from 161-180 AD kept a personal diary of his daily meditations that can now be purchased off Amazon.com. Some of Kafka's notes now published in this new book (and more likely to be released soon) reveal the challenge we all face 'destroying' our own diaries or journals, the words are so deeply reflective, a living part of us. When I think of all the emotion and complexity of thought - written in private or now often shared on the Internet - I know it is a way of helping us see our shared human experience.

While we each have a somewhat unique set of life circumstances, underneath this surface of diversity lays a commonality of emotion and thought. This shared human experience of love and loss, doubt and clarity, anger, hatred, envy, joy, bliss, passion and compassion may differ in degree and quantity from person to person but the shared elements transcend such differences. It is in this transcendent experience that we discover an infinitely present Nature that we may ascribe names such as Wisdom, Knowledge, Truth, or even God. Because this experience is so elusive and difficult to describe in words, those closest to it jump across time barriers with ease.

I often study my thoughts and feelings through writing and I doubt I can destroy my journals either; the words seem to have a life of their own. It will likely be left to my children to wade through the pages - throwing most away but perhaps saving a few words of wisdom found among the morass.

With age I've come to see the wisdom we all share and the barriers we create to hide it from ourselves. In writing it can often be revealed. A wise person knows he knows but does not profess it. He writes in ways to be forgotten but time yields to their discovery.

Look what was said, 2000 years ago in the privacy of a diary:

"For a man cannot lose either the past or the future:

for what a man has not, how can any one take this from him? These

two things then thou must bear in mind; the one, that all things from

eternity are of like forms and come round in a circle, and that it

makes no difference whether a man shall see the same things during

a hundred years or two hundred, or an infinite time; and the second,

that the longest liver and he who will die soonest lose just the same"

From Marcus Aerelius, The Meditations.