Martha’s Musings: Bullet Journals and RAIN

Hi Friends!

I’m coming ‘atcha strong with a quote from Dr. Maya Angelou: “When you get, give. When you learn, teach.” So today I give you two things that I’ve recently learned and would like to share. The first is Bullet Journaling.  The second is RAIN, which is a beautiful meditation I’ve learned from Tara Brach that can be done any time and should be done by everyone.

Dr. Maya Angelou quote

Bullet Journal

A bullet journal, I have found, is ideal for the list-loving, Type-A personality within us, but also plays well with our free-spirited, go-with-flow Type B personality that comes up with those creative ideas and sketches that wouldn’t fit inside the margin of a pre-made planner.

I’m very grateful for my bullet journals (yup, I have two. One for work and one for personal use), as it helps me capture all that floats around in my brain on to paper, in an effort to stay organized, inspire creativity, capture gratitude, track goals, plan meals, and so forth and so on.

How Does A Bullet Journal Work?

Acquire the following:

    • Lined journal
    • Pen (ideally one that doesn’t bleed through to the other side of the paper)
    • Optional: Colored pens, pencils, washi tape

The first two pages of the journal are reserved for the index, a Table of Contents of sorts.

In my index there are some recurring collections like monthly logs (i.e. November: 47) and then some one off topics like “Meditation thoughts: 40.” The number (47 and 40) are the page numbers. In the bottom right is a key of the signifier symbols. Having a key is great to reference but after a few entries you’ll likely have the symbols committed to memory.  In the left hand corner of the photo is my rose quartz egg, because pretty. Oh and a Coffee Makes Me Poop mug. But jokes on you! I’m drinking Earl Gray.


This is the pièce de résistance of a bullet journal: being able to create pages that are specific to your life. For me that means having a monthly goal tracker for things like reading for 15 minutes a day (room for improvement here — oof!) or my yoga practice (I can do a headstand now!).  On the right hand side is my gratitude log. Every day I take pause to remember at least one thing that I was grateful for. Sometimes that comes easily like having an impromptu get together with friends. Other times they are the little things that made the day: chicken soup, meditation practice, wine, podcasts. What would be on your list?

And, that is the proverbial “it”, ladies and gents, on what you really need to get started. However, to learn more visit the bulletjournal’s website. Especially how to get started where you will learn the difference between the daily, monthly and future log.  And the beauty of the signifiers! And if that’s not enough, be sure to check out this great lifehacker article. 

Now some folks really get creative and can spend a lot of time decorating their bullet journals.  You do you. I’ma be like this at these people with their crazy doodles and sketches:




One of the things I have listed in my gratitude log is my new found enjoyment for podcasts and there is one in particular I devour on a daily basis: Tara Brach’s talks. She is a meditation teacher, psychologist, founder of the Insight Meditation Community in Washington, D.C., and she keeps me calm on my long commutes to and from work. In one talk she spoke about a meditation technique to use in daily life to help deal with the difficult, stressful, or emotional situations that arise: R.A.I.N.

R – Recognize

A – Allow

I – Investigate

N – Nurture

How To Use R.A.I.N. In Your Life

Imagine there is someone in your life with whom you have tension or difficulty with. Bring up a recent situation and watch it unfold in your memory. Perhaps it was a heated argument with a loved one, a tit-for-tat exchange with a co-worker regarding a deadline, or a heated call with a customer service representative. During the moment of  tension and stress can you Recognize what emotions were raising up or how you felt in your body? Perhaps your heart was pounding or maybe your jaw was clenched.

Allow those feelings and sensations in your body to be there.  Breathe deeply and quietly name the sensations. “Angry.” “Tense.” “Disappointed.” “Tightness.” Give yourself permission to let those feelings and sensations be as big as they need to be.

Then, when you are ready, Investigate why when this situation occurred you felt and reacted in the way you did. As Tara puts it: “What story am I believing about myself?” or “What am I believing?” or “What most wants attention?” When you look internally do it with love and compassion as you would when a friend comes to you looking for solace. You wouldn’t chide them for seeking for help, so be sure to offer yourself the same kindness. Sometimes, the I in R.A.I.N. doesn’t come easily and may take several attempts into introspection. That’s OK.

Now I’ve learned that there can be two N’s in RAIN. The first, is to Nurture yourself. Tara Brach mentions that a physical gesture, like putting your hand over your chest above your heart can help bring that message home. Sometimes having an expression you can say to yourself is also helpful: “It’s OK, sweetheart.”

The second is for Non-Identification. Non-identification is liberating and comes naturally after you Recognize what is stirred up within you, after you’ve Allowed that feeling and sensation to just be, then kindly Investigate within yourself why these feelings and sensations are manifesting within you. When you can do this, the natural next step is to realize that you are not identified with those feelings and sensations. Sure, you may get angry or feel jealous at times, but you are not an angry or jealous person.

When Does It RAIN?

You knew I’d have to find a pun somewhere. Even if it were a stretch.

RAIN is best to use after experiencing intense emotions or situation.  Recently, I’ve been practicing the R and A of RAIN during some emotional or stressful situations and it has been a tremendous tool to help me stay present in the moment and actually reduce tension in my body.

Want to give it a shot? Remember to take deep breaths and to mentally name the sensations that arise within you. Then, allow those feelings and sensations to be there.

The neat thing I’ve found is by being present in my body I am able to take pause and make a conscious decision if I want to react like I would when I’m normally triggered or to come from a place of  love and compassion.

I don’t always succeed in the latter, however through Tara Brach’s RAIN I am recognizing that I can have compassion for myself and others and that’s a beautiful thing.


Tara Brach’s RAIN Meditation

Try the meditation now with Tara Brach. Hit play, close your eyes and let her calm voice guide you through.

Visit Tara’s website to read this adaption from her book “True Refuge: Finding Peace & Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart” on RAIN:

Working With Difficulties: The Blessings of RAIN

I hope either the bullet journaling or RAIN are helpful to you as they have been for me. If you try either, please let me know your thoughts.

With love and kindness,

Martita signature

Rising from the ashes

From the ashes we rise up anew.  The Phoenix – a mythological bird that dies in a show of flames and combustion but then through the ashes is reborn – has been a fitting metaphor for the 2016 election. The election is over and many of us are feeling big emotions. The challenge is to be able to honor these feelings, be with them, and then grow from them.

Drawing Parallels From The Firebird Suite

I’ve watched a lot of Fantasia 2000 as of late. It’s my kid’s favorite movie and I’m grateful that it is classical music. However, watch something over a hundred times and you can look past the original story line and draw metaphors and analogies to your own life. The Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky has been helping me frame this volatile election cycle.

If you’re a little rusty on your Fantasia 2000, here’s a quick refresher of the story:

In the dormancy of winter, a beautiful elk walked in to a cave and summoned Mother Nature to awaken spring. And she did. She created wildflowers, flowering trees, green meadows, until she encountered a volcano. The Phoenix awoke from her gentle touch. Images of death and suffering were visible in the billowing smoke. Magma oozed over the once vibrant spring landscape. Mother Nature was aghast. The Phoenix destroyed everything she loved.

The elk survived and surveyed the destruction. Stunned but with steady footsteps, he walked forward. Like before he called on Mother Nature. She was not as vibrant as she once was. Now smaller and weaker, she wanted to give up hope. The elk’s gaze summoned up the strength for her to lean on him.  She cried when the elk galloped to take her to a place she once loved. New growth shot up when the tears touched the scorched soil. Seeing the new growth, Mother Nature brought the rain and then the redwoods, meadows, and wildflowers.

And Now The Gif Version Of The Firebird Suite:





Fantasia 2000 lava scene from The Firebird Suite


giphy (12).gif

The analogy, as I see it, is Mother Nature is the United States and we are the elk and this election was that Phoenix. The election is over but there are still glowing embers. It is difficult to see past the destruction and suffering.  The United States has some grieving and some healing to do. I believe that we will need to find the elk’s steadfastness within ourselves and give the US her strength to raise up.

Inaction And Passivity Can No Longer Be Tolerated

Also known as “Thanks, Obama!”

You see, there’s this narrative that I like to tell myself: I’m just too busy.  Additionally, I recognize in myself a passivity that comes from an attitude of somebody else will take care of it.  And, in my mind’s eye, that onus fell on President Obama. I think he’s done some great work and I’m glad that I put my trust in him. However, I made it too easy for myself  to believe that I didn’t need to take any action of my own.

So, yeah, Thanks Obama. giphy (13).gif

I did the token amount of what was required to perform my civic duty. I will gladly serve on a jury (and I have), I vote, and I’ll fill out an online petition here and there. However, that was the extent of my actions to help my community. Until now.

A Call To Action

Let’s rise up from the ashes and find our inner strength to do what is right. To be kindness and help others, our communities, and this earth. Let us make this country a home for love and acceptance for all persons.

We cannot watch idly and believe that others will take action on our behalf. Let us be our own advocates and each other’s allies.

26 Ways To Make A Difference

This was a rapid fire list to get us started. Please share your ideas on ways we can positively make a difference in our communities and each other’s lives.

  1. Smile at someone
  2. Offer a genuine compliment
  3. Participate in a drive (food, school, pet supplies)
  4. Write a thank you card or a letter
  5. Buy locally
  6. Play Sneaky Cards
  7. Do a favor and don’t expect anything in return
  8. Plant trees
  9. Plant wildflowers
  10. Be vegetarian for a day
  11. Practice water conservatism
  12. Start a garden
  13. Compost
  14. Recycle
  15. Bring your own grocery bags
  16. Go for a walk and pick up any litter you see
  17. Wear a safety pin or don’t – more importantly, be an ally
  18. Speak up if you see bullying, racism, sexism, or any form of discrimination
  19. Find volunteer opportunities in your hometown with
  20. Donate to any (or all of these) pro-women, pro-immigrant, pro-earth and anti-bigotry organizations
  21. Visit Charity Navigator to find a local non-profit that needs your support
  22. Write to your Congressman or Congresswoman
  23. Vote
  24. Serve on a jury
  25. Find the good in people
  26. Bring out the good in people (show them how)


Thank you for reading this post. Thank you for giving some thought to trying out a couple of these suggestions out. I hope when you do any of these acts that you feel good, right down to your core. Thank you for being a part of a rippling positive force in your community.

It is through changing ourselves that we can begin to change the world. 


With love and kindness,

Martita signature