Johan "Jo" Patricio (she/her)
Johan "Jo" Patricio is the host for the Beyond Belief podcast, a safe space where stories and faith journeys of the LGBTQ+ community are shared with the world.
She shares her story about how meditation and journaling has helped connect her with her inner self and battling mental health issues.
Let me preface by saying this, in no way or form do I claim I am an expert nor am I a meditation teacher and mindfulness professional. I am human, flawed, striving and thriving going through this journey we call life. However, something I have learned and hold as a truth is that meditation and journaling have become a form of healing and reconstruction of my experience with the divine. Not only has it brought me closer to my inner self, it has helped me immensely to go through shadow work and battle my mental health issues.
For me, meditation has become my way to reconnect to my wholeness and journaling has become my true voice to battle my loud demons. I am proud of how I’ve navigated this life from religious and faith rejection, denying my identity, sexual assault, to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, discovering meditation and journaling has been my cornerstone in my healing and rebuilding journey.
I think for a while now meditation has become this new trend to “self-care” and wellness and oftentimes, it is portrayed or showcased in a way that it feels almost like a commercial ad on tv. You see it on movies, you hear about it with your trendy and hipster friends, heck you even see it on regular work-out companies now like Peloton.
But something I thought was so difficult to grasp were concepts like; I have to sit still, quiet my mind, chant OM into the void, physically feel light and free my mind from thoughts and steady my emotions and light candles. The whole idea of it was just so foreign to me. To begin by saying I even came into meditation thinking this was nothing but a form of witchcraft and in my cultural upbringing, beliefs and religious background teachings- I was always taught this was heresy. Meditation alone was a hard construct to even deconstruct, let alone practice.
Sometime around 2019 and the beginning of 2020 before the pandemic enveloped the whole world, I habitually went to Yin yoga sessions 1-2x a week, amongst a group of people, guided by a Yogi, the sage burning, the movements of my body I found a way to focus on my body and breath alone and just allow my physical self to be present. By the time March
2020 came about a friend gave me a book called Inward by Yung Pueblo (a collection of poems, excerpts and short story insights about self-reflection and inner ego work). I started reading the book one page a night and I realized that every time I did this, I was able to get in that quiet headspace where my mind floated in between the words, my emotions clung to the sentiment penned on that paper. I had thought to myself one night “if this would be meditation, then I can for sure do it much better”, and that was it!
I had been meditating already since late 2019 and I could not last or complete a full 5 minute meditation, it was just too much for me but this new practice I was doing created a whole new sense of direction, peace, self-reflection and awareness. When I shared this new routine with my therapist, she completely said to me that I needed to get back into reading those self-development and self-help books by different people and she said do it like as if you are doing it with the poetry book and trust in the process of what my intuition and my heart tells me during the time, “because what you’ve been doing even though it doesn’t look like meditation that [you] thought it should be, is exactly the meditation that [you] need it to be. Present, aware, self-reflective, passionate and peaceful.” Ever since then, meditation has been a practice that grounded me, kept my emotions in check, gave my thoughts freedom, acceptance. It has evolved throughout time and here I am now, leading group guided meditation sessions, practicing kundalini yoga, mantra meditation, visualizations and breathwork.
Dealing with my mental health was an upkeep that I didn’t enjoy. There is a stigma around it and I definitely carried it around me for a long time. When I started seeing a therapist sometime in 2016, she gave me small snippets of homework where she asked me to write and enumerate my thoughts and feelings based on our conversation, bullet point so to speak. Closer to the end of that year I started to surround myself with people that were completely different from my previous crowd, positive, self-affirming, supportive, entrepreneurs and go-getters.
During my time with them, a habit I picked up was writing my goals and plans and as time went on, my goal and planning became, what I thought about someone I had interacted with, what I felt about a situation I just encountered. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t organized just like how my brain and my thoughts worked. A pop of an idea, a memory of a conversation, a feeling or questions of why I reacted a certain way. Writing everything down, when I didn’t have someone to talk to at that moment, or when I needed to find a way to calm my thoughts and get to sleep became cathartic. It increased my ability to rest, I was communicating in social settings so much better and the best part was that it fended off my anxiety because I was able to have those anxious conversations that lived inside my head, out loud, in the open and on paper. Journaling became my inside voice dialogue on the outside but on paper.
Over the years, I’ve adapted different journaling methods, I’ve used different journaling guide resources (i.e. Mel Robbins’ 5-Second Journal, Brendon Bouchard’s High Performance Planner, Rachel Hollis’ Start Today Journal) but for me, journaling has become the voice of truth outside the voices and the conversations and thoughts that plagued me in my head. When I am able to call it out and have a healthy dialogue with myself through writing, in whatever format I am able to name it so I can tame it. Anxious thoughts keep a particular distance from my day to day life, my assumptions and my doubts are able to step aside and I am able to be open to experiences happening in the present and be engaged with the people I am with.
In my personal experience, my creativity comes through when I am able to take better care of myself as a whole, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically. Journaling allows me to express my thoughts and feelings on paper creating more room for my creative ideas to percolate and come to life. While meditation allows my body and my emotional state to be in check so that I am able to put my creative thoughts into action and be fully passionate and present when I engage in it. Just as I had prefaced in the beginning, I claim to be no expert or a professional but perhaps that’s exactly what we all need. To discover our way into mental wellness and healing in creative ways. It does not have to fit a social norm or a one-size fits all type of box, but it just needs to be what we need it to be, bringing us peace, freedom, self-acceptance, healing and growth.