One of the risks of all-or-nothing thinking is that sometimes, you end up with nothing.

I spent a portion of the last hour trying to find an old journal. In a past life, I used to journal religiously, and by that I mean, as though my life depended on it. At some level, my life did depend on it. Journaling became an obsessive habit that validated my existence.

I couldn’t find it. It wasn’t in any of the places where holy relics are kept. It’s possible, in my self-righteous decision to break from journaling, I sent them back from whence they came. I vaguely recall shredding and recycling them, at least the ones I hadn’t already burned.

This morning, I listened to Eckhart Tolle describe the workings of the mind, and how all suffering comes from identification with thoughts. I think he’s right. I think that’s why I had to stop journaling.

Journaling about my experiences, for most of the years I did so, was a means to formulate, and cling to, my identity. History belongs to those who write it. I was certain that if I wrote my version of events, mine was the only version I needed. My story, as told in my journals, was titled, The Victim’s Victim. It started with “I’m troubled,” and ended with “How dare they?”.

Can you relate? Doesn’t it seem like most of us, when we are suffering, fed up, irate, and ill, point our fingers at something –  a system, our parents, ourselves – to explain how it is we got this way? The world is a mess, we say. If only THEY would do something about it!

Like a shiny little nugget, I must have recognized the truth of what Tolle purports, although at the time I began destroying my journals, I had no overt learning of his work. My gut knew that my journaling was serving the wrong gods, and so I denounced it all like a reborn sinner.

Hooray! I was saved! Enlightened and free from suffering! Right?

Wrong. I was still suffering. I just switched to a new story. This one, titled Self-Righteous Bitch, started with “I’m amazing,” and ended with “Wouldn’t it be best if everyone lived just like me?”.

Which, in some ways it would be, but not if we all gave up journaling. The world might be a better place if more people did something else that I do, and that is – practice watching your mind.

If you are reading this and thinking, “OMG, Melissa. You are so preachy! And what the hell does this have to do with songwriting?” I don’t blame you, but I might ask you to watch your mind anyway.

I know deeply that if more people practiced watching their minds, little by little, we all would release the death grip we have on our stories. Bit by bit, we would uncover our true selves between the stories. In those flashes, the synapses, we’d glimpse the ever-present well of beauty and creativity that is who we really are. We’d feel what my dear friend, Jen, calls our “God Goo.”

I know this because I have experienced it personally, and I’m not special. I know lots of not very special people who are doing it too. There are way more people I don’t know, a giant slew of people who heard the whispers of their shiny little nuggets. They’re all out there practicing, watching their minds. An ever-growing population is seeing, like a hint of blue through thinning clouds, a vast potential they intuitively knew had to be there somewhere.

Aaaand….boom! That’s how this blog is about songwriting, my darling. When I practice, I observe my thoughts, which are not who I am. That opens space for a powerful life force, which is who I am. For me, that powerful life force comes out in songs.

My guitar students ask me a thousand questions, and there is only one answer: practice, practice, practice. They want the glory without putting in the guts.

Don’t we all? If only it were that easy, we would all be cherubs eating bon-bons in the clouds by now. We would all be Quan Yins with our soft hands floating. We would be resurrected from the dead. We would be Buddhas laughing into our round bellies.

I don’t journal any more, but it’s no longer all-or-nothing for me. I’m open to it! It might be a fun way to practice watching my mind. Kind of like blogging, but here, I get to share the process with you, a different way to practice not attaching my identity to the words that float in space.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. ~ Rumi

Let’s head out there, to the field between thoughts, between stories and identities. Who knows what songs are ready for the picking?

Comment, please!