On Morning Pages

The arrigo programme life coaching retreat in England
On Morning Pages
Morning Pages are a brilliant retreat tool we can use while on retreat and to help create changes to our lives back home. We asked Denise Leicester, healer and founder of organic skincare brand ila, to tell us how they can help us deal with our negative thoughts and emotions

I first came across the practice of morning pages in 1994 when I spent three months in India studying art and healing.  I explored ways of accessing and expressing my inner creative energy and expressing through a variety of mediums – yoga, dance, kalari (a martial art) and yogic healing.  On my way to India I had come across a book by Julia Cameron called The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (Souvenir Press) – and half-heartedly thought it could be useful so picked up a copy. While I was in India, I found a lot of negativity and resistance bubbling up within me for all sorts of reasons, so I decided to see if the book could help.

The Artist’s Way teaches techniques and exercises to help you gain self-confidence and harness your creative talents and skills.  It’s also about seeing the connection between your artistic creativity and your spiritual self, and practicing the art of creative living. It comprises a 12-week course that helps us gently unfold and unleash the creativity that we all have inside – whether we are writers, painters, dancers, gardeners, cooks or just people who want to express our creativity by living life to the full. What I found most transformative were what Julia calls ‘Morning Pages’.  As an exercise, they sound incredibly simple, yet they’re amazingly powerful.

The idea is that, pretty much as soon as you get up, you write out three pages in long hand.  It’s a total stream of consciousness – you don’t censor yourself in any way and it doesn’t matter what you write. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages – they are about anything and everything that crosses your mind – dreams, thoughts, worries, shopping lists, inane comments, anything at all!  For best results, you do need to do them every day.

They helped me enormously during my three months, and I’ve continued to do them to this day. I find that they clear my mind of the low energy nonsense that floats around and clouds things.  The process of writing down grounds my feelings and thoughts, so I can begin my day afresh every time. In particular they help me notice repetitive patterns of thinking, and emotions that keep surfacing as I write.  Recognizing and identifying them is part of letting something much bigger dissolve.

I realized in India that my mind, like most, is primarily negative in its nature, and is always looking to find problems. I came to recognise that negativity.  I’d think:  ‘Oh, here we go – ‘The Worrier’ is here.’  It would surface in all sorts of forms.  Before I would never have identified these patterns, but by writing them down I learned that I can also let them go.  Beyond the mind there is another part of me – calm, yet also a bubbling brook of joy and creativity, expansion and expression. I think that part is Love – and it’s our true self.

How to unleash your inner artist

Here are five tips from The Artist’s Way to get you started.

  • Every morning set your clock half an hour early. Get up and write three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness morning writing. Do not reread these pages or allow anyone else to read them.
  • Every week, take yourself on an artist’s date. For example, take five pounds/dollars and go to a stationery or art/craft store. Buy silly things like sparkly sequins, glue, crayons, gold stars – whatever takes your fancy.
  • Take your inner artist for a walk, just the two of you. Keep all your senses open. A brisk twenty-minute walk can dramatically alter your consciousness.
  • Sit down, breathe and make a list of twenty things you love doing (rock climbing, making bread, riding a horse, reading poetry, running, and so forth). When was the last time you allowed yourself to do these things? Ponder if you might allow yourself to do them again.
  • List three old enemies of your creative self-worth. Think back. Who were the historic monsters who sat on your creativity and smothered it? Create a monster hall of fame and start writing out (or painting) those old stories. Time to let them go.

Queenly reading

Morning pages is a key practice on many retreats, including Julie Hosler’s Personal Strategy Retreats in France. Denise Leicester offers bespoke ila Wellness Workshops in England.

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