Get out your pens and make magic with mindfulness meditation teacher, Andrea Sanders.
Words and photos: Andrea Sanders
North: How long have you been journaling and what inspired you to start?
Andrea: I started keeping a journal when I was around 8 years old. I remember having a small, light-turquoise, hardcover diary with a tiny cheap lock and flimsy key. Just enough to keep your little sister out, sorta. This was 1988, there weren’t any digital distractions like we have now, so books and writing were something that just transpired naturally for me to keep occupied. Then like it is now, my notebook was a place to pour my feelings, ideas, joys, and sorrows.
North: What tips would you give to those who’d like to start?
Andrea: Keeping a personal notebook really starts by building new habits of awareness and attention. We are so incredibly distracted by our phones, computers, and tablets nowadays, but like with anything, we need to take care of our relationships with what we use.
Andrea: While I do love technology and think it’s important and useful, without care, it can rob us of our most critical skills – listening, curiosity, attention, and wisdom-based dialogue. These are the skills that are really important when we are working with notebooks. I think if you want to start journaling, we have to engage deeper in these subtle skills. Curiosity is very useful.
Andrea: My top tips are:
- Have a notebook and pen that you really love and want to use and pick up every day. Try your hand at fountain pens – they give a rich and connected experience with writing. Have tools that are meaningful and that you build a lasting relationship with.
- Be consistent and most importantly be observant! Pay attention to the world around you in a different way. Develop a new kind of curiosity. This takes time and patience, especially with our current digital habits.
- Don’t judge what you write! There are no rules for journaling. You could write a word a day or four pages a day. You could doodle your thoughts, collage your feelings, or write what you ate each day. Everything you put into your notebook is worthy.
North: Are there any authors or artists that inspire you?
Andrea: I’m very fond of the life and art of Georgia O’Keeffe. She was an incredible woman and artist that was so richly connected and committed to her craft and her surroundings. Her attentiveness towards her environment and work is pure wonder.
North: How would you describe your studio?
Andrea: We recently moved to downtown Seattle, WA, and now live in a 628 square foot apartment – two people and two dogs. Our space is very limited and my studio is a slot by the window where my small desk resides. Since I have little space, I keep my supplies minimal, meaningful, and useful.
North: How would you describe your notebook? What do you write about and draw?
Andrea: I have been using the same Traveler’s Company brand Traveler’s Notebook for the last ten years. It’s a customisable notebook that is based on an elastic band system within the cover that can hold multiple notebook inserts at once. I usually have one to four notebook inserts within my Traveler’s Notebook at one time that I use for a variety of reasons – from art, projects, planning, and daily journaling.
Andrea: With journaling, anything goes. Everything and anything is content. Other than adding the date, time, and location in my entries – I have no rules. I write often about thoughts, feelings, emotions, ideas, memories, what I ate, the weather, art, and collages. It’s all there mixed, random, and beautiful.
North: What kind of tools do you use?
Andrea: I love physical forms of analogue from film cameras, typewriters, dip pens, and fountain pens and inks. I love the tactile experience of these methods of capturing and documenting the world around me. There’s so much to explore and study when we return to these forms of communicating.
North: What is restorative journaling?
Andrea: I like to call the time we spend in our journal reflective self-inquiring, restorative journaling. This is a time where we allow ourselves to be purposely engaged with our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Not judging what arises but letting what we write be honest and real. Through this, we can let ourselves explore more deeply who we are without judgment.
North: How does journaling promote mindfulness? What kind of techniques do you use?
Andrea: Mindfulness is simply paying attention, on purpose, without our judgments. Journaling gives us the time to practice that. The technique is simply paying attention which is honestly the hardest thing to do. Our attention muscle needs consistent practice and when we sit with our notebook we can let our curiosity and awareness be free and engaged with just what we are doing.
I’m interested in the subtle ways we connect to ourselves, others, and the world. I’m interested in the multifaceted ways we exist.
North: What have you learnt about yourself through this process?
Andrea: Years of documenting my life’s moments has given me a wider perspective on the world, what’s truly important, and the ways I can contribute thoughtfully to my life. The more I continue to document, the more I uncover about myself and this in itself has been a treasure.
North: What message would you like to convey through your work?
Andrea: Whether I’m talking about the environment or mindfulness or analogue forms of documenting – it’s all the same. The message is the same – attention, curiosity, interconnectedness. Our biggest hangup in society is separation – seeing everything as separate. When we balance out our online habits with ones that are more tangible and slow, we create new habits of attentiveness. Keeping a notebook allows me to maintain a different kind of attention with my world. One that isn’t dictated by algorithms.
Andrea has been a mindfulness meditation teacher and an environmental educator for over two decades. She offers practical and supportive guidance through mindful meditation and journaling exploration. Her holistic studies explore the connections and magic made when we slow down, think deeply, and live with intention. Check out more of her incredible work on Instagram and YouTube.