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Wednesday, 29 July 2009

LIVING - Flush your troubles down the page

by Nathalie Kyrou

Have you heard of the Morning Pages?

It’s what I’d like to call ‘The Yoga of the Mind’. Whether you practice yoga or not, by starting your own morning ritual of writing down your thoughts you can stretch the inner muscles of your being, those of the mind, while at the same time, flushing your problems down the page and getting to know yourself better in the process.

The Morning Pages are recommended for any age, any gender and any state of mind. Every single morning, for an indefinite period of time (it is essential that it is first thing in the morning, as soon as you awaken and before other distractions pull you away) it is suggested that you write 3 pages by hand - not more, not less. The aim is to get your worries down on paper and rid your mind of the endless chatter and nagging thoughts that haunt it before your day begins.

At first I thought it sounded too simple. I mean, how could just pouring one’s thoughts into 3 pages a day really help? But the more I read stories about people who swear it has changed their lives, the more I decided that it was definitely something worth trying. The book where I discovered the Morning Pages states that this form of unedited writing also brings out the creativity in you. Speaking of self-help books, if you are going through a stressful period in your life, you may realize that they can become somewhat of an addiction, albeit a healthy one. But reading is one thing. Actually following advice given in such books is another. However, as it seemed straight-forward enough, and it would be an excellent way, not only to start a form of mental catharsis, but to also hook me into a daily routine of writing (which I hoped would in the long run help get that novel I’m working on completed), after a few days of psyching myself up, I made a commitment to start my own Morning Pages and see where it would lead me.

Now the rules about the Morning Pages are strict, especially about the fact that one must write by hand on paper, as opposed to typing words into a computer. I pondered this for a moment, remembering the joys of jotting down poetry or scribbling ideas onto paper once upon a long-forgotten time ago when technological gadgets did not dominate my everyday existence. I felt strangely apprehensive at the task ahead of me, yet enthusiastic to purchase a new notebook and find a pen that felt comfortable.

Day One: I find myself scribbling away slowly at first, then I pick up speed as the strangeness of what I am doing wears off. By the end of the third page I want to write more, but rules are rules, so I put my pen down, disappointed that the time has passed by so fast.

Day Two: I am reminded of when I used to keep a diary as a teenager. Having felt much better after yesterday’s writing session, I realise that I actually wish my notebook was larger in size, and the pages bigger, so that I could write more. Must be the writer in me.

Day Four: I cannot believe that I’m only a few days into this project and I already skipped a day! Yesterday, I was just too ravenous to wait until I had finished my Pages to have breakfast (and you are supposed to do the writing as soon as you wake up). Of course by the time I had finished eating it was too late – I was otherwise distracted. Nevertheless, determined not to let another day slide by, I pick up my notebook this morning and write down the first thoughts which pop into my mind, which inevitably end up being about how terrible I feel about skipping yesterday.

Day Five: This is the hardest day for me by far. It’s supposed to be a routine by now, so why do I feel so guilty about spending twenty minutes or so writing before my day begins? I start feeling skeptical about the whole thing. As if this simple writing exercise is really going to help me…this is just a waste of time! Although the whole point of this exercise is to just write thoughtlessly, without reflection and without pause, I rebel and analyze my thoughts, only to find myself feeling exasperated. Apparently, this is normal and expected (as the book assures me when I refer to it for guidance), as is the case with any sort of therapy: a period of denial, followed by anger, before one can see the light.

Day Six: Wow…where are these feelings coming from? I am a mean writing machine this morning! My pen has a mind of its own, and I’m surprising myself with the words that are pouring out. The book is right – things can get emotional if you write knowing no-one is going to read any of it. Immediately, I am aware of my state of mind. Don’t they say that consciousness is everything?

Day Seven: Hooray! I’ve managed to complete a week’s worth of Morning Pages (well almost). I think I am actually starting to see the light! I’m proud of myself that I have resisted the urge to read back what I have written – the rule is that one is not supposed to do that until at least 3 months into the project... Did they say 3 months?

The Morning Pages are supposed to be a life-long commitment, a daily routine which, like yoga or meditation, if you stick to, promises you a life free of stress. Sounds like a miracle cure to me, and it probably is, if you can only stick to doing them. I wonder why it is so hard. After all, what is more important than mental health in this day and age? It is not enough to simply exercise the body. One must delve deep into the recesses of one’s mind in order to discover who they truly are, and what makes them happy. By introducing the Morning Pages into your routine, you can now be doctor of your own brain, master of your own psyche. It worked for me. After only a week, I felt I was truly in touch with my inner self: I was my own psychologist. I knew what was troubling me as soon as I awoke each morning, and by writing it down I was able to relieve my mind from worrying about it for the rest of the day.

So, will I continue to flush my mind empty it of its clutter every morning? I believe I will – well, at least for another week – as it helps discipline me, and calms me down. There is also a sense of accomplishment in doing the Morning Pages. And yet, as I guiltily flick through the pages I wrote this past week, a tiny part of me can’t help but think, “if only I had been working on my novel instead, I would have finished an entire chapter!”

Copyright © Nathalie Kyrou 2009

1 comment:

crispy said...

I have this book, and a few years back, I also began the morning pages! My beginnings were exactly like yours: I wrote diligently for the first few days (though dreading having to do it, I must admit) and then I quickly began skipping a day here and there. I was cursing the fact that my notebook was too big, and I had too many lines to fill. I too went back and read what I had written a few days later, and saw that I was mostly writing about what I had dreamed, and about how I didn't know what to write.

I gave it up after about a week, and have been sitting on this book, telling myself I'll try it again, but just haven't quite made it there yet. Arg...commitment is so hard, even when you know it's for the best, and even when you remember how much you loved writing in a journal when you were younger. In high school, I couldn't let a day go by without writing, I simply had to record everything, or else I would miss out on so many memories that I knew I'd want to re-live later. And you know, I appreciate that now as reading those old journals is a fun, though weird, experience.

Being able to go back and read what your thoughts were in the past, you get an eerie view of yourself, and I find that often my memory of who I was and the life I lived is totally off! It's a big old mirror held up in front of your face.

I hope all is well!