Meditation made manageable – mmm…

This post was written by Megan on April 1, 2010
Posted Under: burnout and stress management

monk meditating by singing in head cartoon

What happens when you hear the word 'meditation'?  

Some of you may think of words like: 'calm', 'spiritual', 'awareness', 'nice smelly candle and fluffy pillows'.

But many of us, if we're really honest, immediately think:

  • 'What? You mean that thing monks take decades to master?'
  • 'I don't know how to meditate'
  • 'I'm crap at meditating'
  • 'Who has time to meditate?'  
  • 'I don't have the energy to sit up to eat my breakfast, let alone brainstorm with my higher self'
  • 'Can I do it with a straw?'

 

If you are burned out it's likely you have been told by at least one well-meaning person that you need to meditate. They tell you meditation helps to manage stress better and rejuvenate your body.

It is likely that these people don't actually meditate themselves. They just enjoy telling other people to do it. And most likely you would rather de-stress by using their head as a bowling ball.

I know how you feel.

 

I've also gone along on meditation retreats, to Buddhist centres, meditation centres, yoga studios, and adult education classes to discover what I call 'Meditation – for fun and profit'.

 

I've never been to India, but… 

I've hummed, I've sung, I've murmured, I've listened, and I've stayed in deafening silence with gritted teeth.

I've sat, stood, I've held contorted poses, and I've sprawled out of the floor like a bear rug.

I've understood all the the words of the mantras, some of the words of the mantras, none of the words of the mantras.

I've tried. I've given up. I've tried again. I've given up. I've tried again in a half-baked manner…meditation with chocolate…meditation in front of the television…

 

What worked for me

My meditation practice isn't really 'officially acknowledged' as meditation. But I call it meditation. And you can be the judge.

A few years back, I read a book called 'The Artist's Way' by Julia Cameron (first published in 1992). One of the two big things that people get out of 'The Artist's Way' is an exercise called the Morning Pages (the other is 'The Artist Date' which I'll tell you about some other time).

 

How do I do Morning Pages?

It's pretty straightforward. You sit down with an A4 pad and write down in long-hand whatever comes into your head. You do this for three pages, then stop.

Just write. Don't pause to scratch your nose, don't edit what you are writing. Don't let anyone at home – children and pets included – disturb you. Just keep the pen moving on the page until your three pages are done. If you don't know what to write, write "I don't know what to write". And keep writing.

When it's time to stop, put the pad away. Nothing else is required of you – except that you do this three page exercise daily.

 

When do I do Morning pages?

Is this a trick question?

As the name suggests, you're supposed to do this exercise in the morning. Preferably make it the first thing you do, so you're still in touch with that subconscious state you had when you were sleeping a mo' ago.

But writing as soon as I woke didn't work for me because my pages were filled with comments like 'I really need to go to the toilet' and 'Man, I'm sooo hungry'. So I tend to my basic needs THEN write my morning pages.

Sometimes I miss getting to my pad in the morning. Things happen. Early morning meetings, the cat's throwing up, 'I just don't want to do the #@$%^&*! Morning Pages right now'. So I do the pages later in the day (please don't tell Julia).

And sometimes I do extra Morning Pages if I'm feeling particularly stressed and need to de-brief. It's a handy therapy tool. 

So I say: if you want to do your Morning Pages in the evening, fine. If you want to do them more than once in the day, fine. If you miss a day, also fine. I won't tell Julia.


Why do Morning Pages?

Firstly, it helps get or the junk out of your head. After two or three months of doing this every morning, you'll probably find that the junk runs out of gas about half way through.

Then some 'higher level' thoughts start to emerge. A sense of clarity, more love, more compassion – all these now have a greater shot at getting onto the page. Self-nurturing stuff that doesn't seem to come from your burnt-out brain, but from somewhere else. It feels like the thoughts flow through you.

Sounds trippy, but wouldn't you want to experience it? 

 

What if you don't experience this 'higher consciousness'?

At least you have put what's in your head out on the page. This is highly valuable in itself. You can bore yourself silly with whinging about how crappy you feel, how other people don't understand, how scary your credit card debt is. But then it's out. You see it, acknowledge it and…if you so choose…you then MOVE ON from it. 

 

About SARK – again!

SARK (who I've more-than-mentioned in my two previous posts), is a personal friend of Julia Cameron's. Inspired by the Morning Pages idea, SARK created '3 Part Harmony' as her way to tap into the hey-wow of stream-of-consciousness writing.

 

After reading Julia

Later I read 'Becoming a Writer' by Dorothea Brande (first published in 1934) and saw where Julia got a lot of her ideas from. Brande called this stream-of-consciousness process 'early morning writing'.

Natalie Goldberg has since coined it 'first thoughts' in Writing Down the Bones.  Peter Elbow (author of 1970s bestseller Writing Without Teachers) calls it 'freewriting'.

I call it Meditation Made Manageable (mmm…).

 

And guess what?

You can call it whatever you want. If stream-of-consciousness writing appeals to you, make it yours. Break the rules and find the way that has 'you' written all over it. 

And feel free to tell us about your experiences with it (make a comment below). I'd certainly love to hear about it.

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