Morning Pages or Meditation?
It turns out I have been writing morning pages longer than I have been aware that they had a name for that! Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages were made news to me last December when I picked up Tim Ferriss’s “Tools of Titans.” Before then, I just referred to my writing practice as journaling, and the practice would occur sporadically throughout the day; according to my mood; or in the evening while I tried to play catch up from the day’s events. To be fair, although I have always kept a journal, I never followed a strict, first things first policy until I heard about Cameron’s morning pages practice and decided to give her way a try.
I still keep notes or journal throughout the day as the mood strikes me, but I do the morning pages work first as an active meditation, and to start my day off on the pattern and practice of taking care of myself first before engaging in work for others. This is me securing my own safety mask before I render help to others!
I have not done a ton of research yet into morning pages, but I am not surprised by the volume of testaments to the practice that I have read so far. Some people have gone as far as saying it is a religious experience for them - that they have found God speaking to them through their writing.
I can see that. The inner guidance and insight that comes from the morning pages practice certainly feels like it could be God, or the universe, trying to get through to me. I think that’s the big answer. Only through the quiet turning of looking inward can we get in tune and start to hear. What will a searching soul find? Will you be strong enough and wise enough to recognize what you need to change after your problems and issues are staring you in the face? Because after two weeks of the morning pages practice I was forced to to take some accountability and action for my own life’s choices and happiness because there was no getting around the fact that I had been writing about the same whine and agonizing over the same issue. It was a powerful moment. A life changing moment (and one for the better).
I don’t do traditional passive meditation. I can sit on the back porch on a chair and listen to the wind for a few minutes, and I guess that counts, but I haven’t incorporated it into my daily habits yet. Right now, writing my morning pages is where I put my time investment and from doing that I am able to start my day completely at peace and feeling strong. I feel that for my personality type, active meditations give me the best benefit, and writing by far is the most obvious fit. There are also plenty of active meditation moments throughout the day when I try to breathe and quiet my mind, such as exercising; preparing a meal; or when grooming.
Julia Cameron on Morning Pages in “The Miracle of Morning Pages”:
“Morning Pages are about action. Unlike conventional meditation, which may lull you out of taking action, the pages magnify our discontent, pointing out actions we could take. The pages tend to point out our many choice points. We are egged on to increase honesty and candor. Our lives become our own. We no longer sell ourselves out, giving our time and energy to others’ agenda. We have a choice whether to invest in others or ourselves. Investing in ourselves is novel for many of us.”
Because writing is an active exercise, I am more likely to become aware of changes to make or actions to take to move forward when I do the morning pages work. I agree with Cameron’s assessment of traditional meditation alone, in that I have found it to be true that it lulls me into what I feel is a dangerous spiritual complacency in the sense that yes, I am feeling good or peaceful, but in reality what that means is I’ve just taken the lazy man’s way out and adapted a coping mechanism to a problem so that I have made myself be “okay” with problems instead of making any real changes. I hate it when people don’t deal with problems, and I hate it when I’m guilty of avoidance too. I really strive to be accountable when I realize that action must be taken.
When I was transitioning out of the law firm, I used to say: “I don’t need a glass of wine. I need to change my life.” For me, coping mechanisms are dangerous because they let me get myself stuck in less than prime situations. Coping mechanisms are only to be used in the event of tragedy or other dire circumstances; or if I am just absolutely burning out, and that is how I view passive meditation. If meditation works for you, that’s great. I’m just telling you that meditation alone isn’t for me. I’ve tried it, and I get better benefits from active meditation through writing the morning pages daily.
That being said, now that I have successfully developed the sticky habit of doing the morning pages daily, I will try to combine that habit by stacking on five minutes after work in the late afternoon or early evening and see if I can make traditional meditation stick.
It will be interesting to see if I notice any changes after thirty days of stacking these habits! I have made a new habit tracker to begin tomorrow. The game is afoot.
-- Jamie Whitmer