Writing and meditation.
I learned this little trick on creative thinking when I was in grad school. It was part of Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way where you allow yourself a few moments in the morning to just write – your thoughts, your non thoughts, your dreams, your musings, your checklist for the day, and your ideas. The challenge was to write a full three pages of you, all you. Morning pages is what she called it.
I remember the first couple of days trying it. It went from really excited with tons of things to think and write about, to days of questioning why it had to be three pages long, to rants and raves and musings about life, until I got the steady rhythm of just writing whatever it was that came to me. I was set on making sure something creative came out of it (it was after all a creative exercise). And then I realized that creativity doesn’t just strike in the morning or in the process of writing. The exercise was about discipline and freedom.
Discipline to keep at your craft. I connected with this particular artist way because I absolutely love writing and so it didn’t feel like a chore. But more than that, the discipline paved a way for me to be constantly reminded that you need moments to yourself to let your mind go off and wander and be free.
Freedom to be you. My morning pages have allowed me to go from serious to goofball, from profound to mundane thoughts, from angry to peace, from love to frustration, from loud to quiet. The pages in which I write have seen the various moods and styles of my handwriting, which I believe reflect what is on my mind and in my heart.
I stopped writing my morning pages when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. At first it was an outlet for me to not think about him being sick. I tried for it to be anything but that – checklists for work, ideas for my next project, bucket lists for travel, my review of a novel or a movie I just saw. Until I realized that everything would just circle back to my anxiety and fear that I would lose him to cancer. My fear stopped me from writing because I felt that if I wrote it down – my fear of losing him – that I would be confronted with the reality that it could happen. I stopped writing thinking it was just a medium. I didn’t realize that I was closing off my channel to feel and to deal.
When my dad passed away, I didn’t pick up on my morning pages because there were more important things to do – manage the company, take care of the family, escape to another world once in a while. And so the notebooks and the pens sat in the far corner of the shelf. I would pick it up a couple of times, wanting to kick start the creative process again. I would go for about two or three weeks at most and I would forget about it and stow it away because “more important” things came up.
In 2018, I felt the itch to go back into the groove of my morning ritual. It wasn’t because of creativity at all. I needed to write because there was just too many feelings and emotions rising up and I didn’t know what to do with them except to write about it. This was about the same time I found my yoga practice. I didn’t know that part of the yoga journey is the “halahala” or the churning of the practice where a lot of the thoughts and feelings that are not confronted come up. It’s like the big purge and everything just wants to come out like word vomit.
And that’s when I picked up the pen and the last half-filled notebook I used for morning pages. The emotions just tumbled out and the words gushed out like a dam breaking free. When I started again, I was keen on keeping up the rule of three pages until I just gave up and said whatever I want to write today it’ll be three pages minimum and whole lot of excess baggage.
I’ve been writing for the past seven months now. Everyday, three pages full. My pages have seen my current moods and new styles of handwriting. It has also felt that steady and calm hand, but suffered through the grip and aggressive stance of angry writing. It’s been fun to just let it all out and let it go. Just like the art of vinyasa. You work on something and you let it go. It’s not that I let go of my thoughts and feelings, but having them on paper makes you aware and provides you insight into things – how to deal, how to act, how to feel. It’s pretty amazing to have that channel of freedom through discipline. Those two words do not usually hold each other’s hands walking off to the sunset. But I like it.
Today, I had a revelation. My morning pages have been my form of meditation. It’s a beautiful thought that I have been able to marry something I love doing and the practice of quieting the mind. It’s also quite interesting that my mind has quieted down during the act of writing where usually ideas and thoughts come and go. But the steady rhythm has allowed to me think, to feel and to let go. And isn’t that what meditation is about? For you to be fully present, at this particular moment, with an awareness that brings about insight and freedom.
Three pages. Hundreds of letters. A universe of thoughts and feelings.
When discipline breathes freedom – a weird couple, but it works.