I’ve been in France for a month already and how these weeks have flown by. They were my last working weeks as I have left my job. I worked hard until the end and now I am excited take some real time off, time to reflect and think about what next. It feels like such a luxury now to not need to rush to get back to work or fret about work-related questions. I’ve really been appreciating spending time in the garden, a wonderful risk-free place to relax in the COVID times.
I’m taking time to sit on the bench in the garden and slowly write my Morning Pages while the sun warms my legs, surrounded by yellow flowers on thin stalks.
Time to watch bumble bees feasting on the lavender bush and different types of butterflies joyfully fluttering from other parts of the garden, keen to get their share too.
Time to look up at the eucalyptus tree, planted in memory of the time we spent living Down Under, its leaves different tones of green and even red swaying in the wind against the bright blue sky. Its thick bark peels off in strips, that crunch underfoot and its fragrant leaves bring me right back to memories of playing in the bush as a child…
As I start my fourth week of social distancing, I am trying to disconnect more. To let go of that tether that is the internet and its ever-updating news, and instead be more aware to things around me. I’ve worked from home to the best of my abilities, and had calls and creative session with loved ones. It’s also been a beautiful weekend of sunshine. I’m doing my best to be grounded in the present.
I’ve taken daily walks, mindfully keeping my distance from others, smiling at those I coming my way to ease the act of changing sidewalks. I’ve found a sunny bench to sit on and watch the world go by as I drink coffee and write my Morning Pages. In pots on the sidewalk, plants are showing off their beautiful colours and uncanny shapes.
One evening, I heard rustling under the sink, like plastic being moved around. When I opened the cupboard to see what was going on, a mouse popped out and paused for a moment on the edge of the bag that contains the recycling. We stared at each other for several seconds, motionless, before it disappeared behind the wall. I’ve not had mice before so it feels like this little creature came to keep me company in these days of isolation.
I’ve also enjoyed the feeling the sun warm my limbs as I read and moving around the living room to follow the sun rays making their way to land on my orange wall and bathe the whole space with glowing light late in the afternoon.
A year ago, on a cold January weekend, I attended an Artist’s Way workshop with Julia Cameron. I can’t believe one year has flown by already. At the time I was so low on energy that I hesitated to go at all. But I’m so glad I did. Those 2 days were a whirlwind of interactive exercises and small group discussions. Julia was intense, inspiring and very funny. I connected with amazing people from all walks of life. I laughed a lot, cried a little, and was reminded over and over again how we humans are all so alike and struggle with the same things. Since then I’ve been writing morning pages practically daily (which adds up to over 1000 pages of long-hand writing in lots of lovely journals!).
It took a while but I have now incorporated this practice into my routine, and I miss it if I don’t have time. I write my Morning Pages, mostly on the sofa before leaving the house or on my way to work in the tram, but I also scribble them while sitting in trains, cafés or waiting rooms, a couple of times I’ve written them in the silent room at the office, and sometimes I do them in the evening if I didn’t get around to them in the day.
I’m intentionally making time to do Morning Pages because I see that they are key to my mental health and have been crucial to recovering from burn-out. It really helps me to dump my thoughts on the page. I can better observe what is bothering me and find alternative solutions faster. Taking time to reflect also helps me process what’s going on around me and capture my learnings. Also, I find inspiration for creative projects bubbling up, and when I write about plans I have, they seem to happen quicker.
I’d love to hear if any readers are doing Morning Pages or forms of journaling, and what effect these practices have had on you.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #136
Half of the year has flown by, summer is in full swing and I find myself looking back at what the last 6 months brough with them, delighted by how much of it I had no inkling when the first days of January rolled around.
I followed a 2 day workshop with Julia Cameron and kept a nearly daily Morning Pages practise since (which is a great support in getting my ideas clear:), I applied for a new position at work, got it and am somehow pulling it off for two months already, I followed two 8-week writing courses and had a lot of fun getting inspired and crafting 13 pieces of stories and poems for class, and I sold a whole bunch of (post)cards with my designs to family, friends, colleagues and friends of friends…
Also, I’ve been lucky to spend lovely afternoons in (botanic) gardens taking pictures of plants, I’ve kept up with boxing practise, I’ve travelled to Cologne, Paris and Sicily to spend time with family and friends, catching up, drinking tea, eating cakes and spent good times and seen cool movies with friends in Amsterdam too. For all of these things and all the other mundane and extraordinary moments, I am extremely grateful! I am also looking forward to what the next months will bring with them.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #129
I am grateful for an intense and satisfying week in my new position at work. It was one of those weeks where you start out feeling very uncertain and clueless and then look back flabbergasted at how much you learned over the course of the last few days (whilst at the same time becoming more aware of how much there still is to figure out!)
This week I consciously tried to shift from that inner-voice that repeats like a broken record “I have no idea how to do this, what if I don’t manage and let them down!!!” to “what is the next small step I could take to move this forward? I’m curious how that will pan out”.
This is a major change for me. It starts with getting really mindful about how I am feeling, especially when anxiety holds me in its grip, making me double guess everything. It takes deep breathing and scraggly morning pages (or should I call them morning rants?) scrawled hurriedly on the tram in my green moleskine notebook. It takes the leap of faith to just show up every day, believing IT WILL WORK… and in the end, it turns out having that approach brings just a little more ease to everything.
And now, some quiet time on the weekend, to process all this info and emotions:)
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #124
I am sitting on my sofa, with the sun streaming through the wide-open window, warming my skin and I am wondering what to write about today. After a few false starts where I type and delete a couple of paragraphs, I decide to consult my angel cards and see if they have any suggestion about what I should focus on. I shuffle the cards carefully and choose one of the 80 glossy cards from the tiny stack spread out in my left palm, I turn it over and… the word on the card is GRATITUDE! Hahaha, OK, so much for that;) I guess it is a luxury problem not to know what to concentrate my gratitude on.
So here are a few things from the past days that I am particularly grateful for:
- having time to write Morning Pages at home while drinking coffee (and feeling light anxiety release its grip when I lean into it and write out my thoughts, making the day ahead so much easier)
- seeing a gripping and original play about 9/11 terrorist attacks (and the subsequent discussions with Paolo about it)
- gorgeous sunshine (and enjoying a lovely walk with a dear colleague and her son, discovering favorite spots in their neighbourhood)
- attending an intimate Q&A with author Kristen Roupenian (and learning all about her approach to the craft of writing, extremely inspiring!)
- keeping up the rhythm of writing two pages per week (and getting precious feedback from Paolo about which parts work and how to move the piece forward)
Wishing you all a great weekend!
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of writing: daily Morning Pages, writing here twice a week and weekly exercises for my creative writing course. All this writing takes time and effort, whether I am scribbling away in my journal on tram 24 on the way to work (often finishing my third page on a bench in the one heated corridor of Amsterdam Central station) or whether I am typing away and editing on my computer sitting on the sofa (or squatting Paolo’s desk, my favorite spot in the early afternoon with the sun warming my back).
Next to that I’ve realised recently that I’m finally starting to feel less anxiety, after many rough months. There are several reasons for that: less work pressure, results of getting to know myself and my boundaries better through therapy, better self-care… but I am convinced that writing is one of the key factors leading to this improvement.
When I write I am most often in flow, that magic state where I don’t feel time passing, ideas are coming naturally and I’m problem-solving in a concentrated state. Especially with creative writing, I seem to lighten up and find myself having a little fun with the process, not so worried about the results.
It’s up to me to choose what I focus on, and these days I prefer not to spend my energy worrying about whether what I said in that meeting might be misinterpreted or other petty concerns, when instead I can enjoy the challenge of coming up with a two-page text based on nothing less than Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, using a similar omniscient god-like storyteller narrator… Life is a question of priorities;)
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #119
Since the Artist’s Way workshop I attended last month (given by the wonderful Julia Cameron herself!), I’ve been writing Morning Pages daily again. Last time I did Morning Pages that regularly was in 2011 for several months as I made my way through the chapters of Artist’s Way book. After a while the habit faded and I went back to journalling several times a week, but not in the morning and not so consistently.
Though on the surface it may seem like a tedious task to write three pages by hand first thing every day, noting down whatever is passing through the mind, Julia Cameron describes this as a spiritual practice and I would agree. Trusting in the process and being open to where it will lead makes it much more enjoyable.
When doing Morning Pages daily, you can’t really avoid the big things that are going on in your life or those voices inside your head that speak up about how you really feel about things. I feel like writing these thoughts on paper gives space to the ugly stuff, things I might be in denial about and just don’t want to see so I bury them under busy-ness.
Julia Cameron explains that Morning Pages push us take action. It’s true that after noting down frustration or discontent on the same topics day after day, you become more aware of what is important to you. You can then make a change to your attitude or take a small step towards altering the situation.
I am grateful for some recent aha-moments delivered through the pages: for example noticing how much happens in one day on all different fronts (at home, at work, with family and friends, creative endeavours…). This highlighted to me how much stimulation, conversations and events there are to process daily and therefore the need to make time for this (I am now attempting to spend less time mindlessly surfing on the internet to have more space to reflect).
I am enjoying cultivating this constructive practice again and am very curious to see where it will lead me:) Have you ever tried Morning Pages? How did you experience them?