I recently had one of those “aha!” moments when you realize the thing you need to be doing to feel like yourself again, and then you feel dumb, because you’ve had this realization before, and how could you let yourself get so off-track?
But then you stop the self-flagellation and just start doing the thing again, and then you feel great. As you sit there, awash in gratitude, you think, “I need to tell other people in my life about this thing, because maybe it could make THEM feel like their true selves, too.” (Because frankly, a lot of people you know have been struggling to feel like themselves, lately.)
Hence, this blog post.
As the title suggests, the thing that helps me feel like my true self amid the whirl and swirl of everyday life is (drumroll please): Writing three pages every morning and taking myself on a date once a week. In other words, the “morning pages” and “artist’s date” that author Julia Cameron advocates in her book and bible, The Artist’s Way.
If you’re thinking, “But I’m not an artist,” — please keep reading. I firmly believe that the tools I’m about to share can unlock happiness for anyone who wants to be present, activate their best self and live mindfully. Period.
1. Write Three Pages Every Morning
This habit is about getting empty so whatever crap is in your head can get out of there and let you get on with your day. Maybe you’ll write about your dreams from the night before. Maybe you’ll write, “This is dumb, I don’t know what to write,” and maybe you’ll fill three pages with that — but doing that will tap into something, I PROMISE, and you’ll find something else you feel like saying. Sometimes I write, “This is hard.” Sometimes I write my to-do list. Sometimes I rant about something (or someone) that’s pissing me off — oh yeah, I write plenty of ugly feelings. I also write beautiful poetry, words and images that emerge from me in these moments that I didn’t know were there. I write ideas. I write annoyances. I write words that have nothing to do with each other — images, impressions. I write loneliness. I write about feeling fat and worrying and hoping and loving and — you get the idea. I write whatever the fuck is in my head, and afterward, I feel SO GOOD.
You wrote it down – now you don’t need to worry about it. Or if it’s a dream, or an idea — now you don’t have to feel that subtle agitation that comes when you don’t have time to tune into your own self…because you wrote it down, you explored it, and now it can mull peacefully in your subconcious without feeling like it never got the attention it deserved. And by nurturing it in this way, you can help it grow.
If you hate writing in the morning, you’re allowed to pick a different time of day – but I definitely feel the value of starting my day with this kind of emptying (um, no gross bathroom metaphors intended), and it buoys me throughout the day to know I started out by doing something for myself.
2. Take Yourself on a Date Once a Week
You’ve emptied yourself out — now fill yourself up. For one hour once a week, do something that makes you feel like, “I CAN’T WAIT.” Maybe you want to go to the art supply store. Maybe you want to see a movie, or go for a walk around a neighborhood you don’t usually get to explore, or sit and doodle, or lie in a hammock and stare at the sky. Maybe you want to take that Zumba class you’ve been curious about, or play videogames for the first time in a million years, or read comic books, or make a collage, or take yourself out for ice cream. It really doesn’t matter what it is, it only matters that you love it and you do it alone. If you’re an artist, Cameron thinks of this weekly date as a way to “fill the well” (translation: get inspired –fill yourself up with fresh creative fodder). If you aren’t an artist, think of this time as fuel for your soul.
You may find that at first, it’s hard to think of what you want to do. This may feel depressing: “Geez, I don’t even know what sounds fun.” That’s kind of the point. We need to stay in touch with the part of ourselves that knows what it loves. It may be hard at first, but eventually, you’ll find yourself thinking, “Oh, I want to do THIS, too…” It’s a good problem to have 🙂
So, there you have it: Morning Pages and a Weekly Date. I really hope you’ll try embracing these two habits for at least a month, and see how you feel (hey – how it makes you feel to do this stuff can be something you write about in your morning pages ;)). Let me know how it goes!
In my next post, I’ll talk about the profound experience I had the first time I read The Artist’s Way (UPDATE: Here’s that post.).