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

Soapbox Rant: A Wasted Opportunity To Convert

So, as some of you know I have two huskies and the notion of hooking them up to a sled is somewhat appealing, aside from the dislike of snow being so cold, and the other and larger obstacle of not knowing if such an organization where I could take the Siberians to learn to mush even existed.

Until one day a throwaway tweet said that there was such an organization but they were rescheduling an event. I instantly went to their website but because it was still stuck in the 90s I couldn’t find the information I was looking for so I sent an email.

What followed was a wasted opportunity to gain a potential member.

My Excited and Very Informative Email To The Organization

Hi [Insert Name Here],

Found your website thanks to a tweet from [Insert Twitter Handle Here] and was hoping to get more information on how I could get my two huskies some informal classes. Do I have to join or do you ever have some dates set up where people could come up and try to train their dogs?

Also, do you have an email newsletter that I could sign up for more information? Or perhaps are you on Twitter? Facebook?

Essentially, I’d like to stay up-to-date with races and events that I could bring either the dogs or the hubby to.

The Unhelpful Response That I Got Back

Hello Martha, we are on the web at [Insert Website URL]. I guess you found our site? You could contact the different activity chairpersons to see what you may be able to arrange. If you are in the [Insert Geographic Area] at least one of our members trains here using a bike or non-motor cart. Most members are in [Insert Another Geographic Area]. Joining is always a good thing. Our current newsletter came out in January 2011, our last web based newsletter was October 2010.

Let me know if this helps.

Reading In Between The Lines

This is what I do — reading in between the lines. Over-analyzation is my thing.

  • Uh, yes, I did find your website. I even told you from where I found your website. What great feedback I just gave you!
  • I already contacted someone. You! Now I have to research someone else on that terrible website, contact them and see what I might be able to arrange on my own?
  • I’d like to stay up to-date about the organization. Have you heard of Twitter? Facebook? No? And I missed both the e-newsletter and the paper newsletter? Guess I’ll have to check back to the website for updates. Really? Really!?

Does that help? No, no it doesn’t.