On and off for years now I follow a Morning Pages ritual. I try to do it everyday. That doesn’t always work. I don’t beat myself up if I miss a day, or a week or a month. I just show up again and continue where I left off. They are called Morning Pages yet I tend to write mine in the evenings, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning when I haven’t gone to sleep yet. I rarely write in the morning yet I still choose to call them Morning Pages (MP). My sleep pattern at the moment is late. I sleep late and I get up late. Am I a night owl? Yes, I suppose. Would I like to be an early riser at dawn or 5am? Nah. I do know that’s just not me.
A ritual for me is a sequence of minor actions that are repeated to set the mood or scene for the intended major action in a particular place. There is no religious significance for me. Yet this repeated series of actions could be considered a type of meditation. So rituals could be absolutely anything done mindfully or thoughtfully: taking a walk, preparing a meal, gardening, writing, painting,… The preparation of getting the minor actions in motion allow the mind to prepare for the next action and the next until the major action. If you are lucky then ‘flow’ will follow. Taking a walk ritual could actually begin the night before when you select socks and place your shoes by the front door. Preparing a meal could start the night before also defrosting ingredients. Calling what I do a ritual makes it purposeful and more meaningful to me. I take care to get items ready. I enjoy the sequence and the scene. It sparks joy in my day.
My Morning Pages ritual location is well chosen. I made an oasis in a area of my studio. I have a Japanese desk that sits on on a carpet on top of two Japanese tatami mats. There are no legs to the desk. It sits low and right on ground and I love it. I bought the desk in a secondhand shop many years ago. I bought the tatami mats at an online auction. The desk has a fold down front and doesn’t take up much space so I always leave the writing desk open ready to write. There is one drawer inside and many cubby holes, slots and shelves to store paper and other stationery. There are sliding doors under the fold down front for more storage. It is a simple and well designed desk. I only ever wear socks or bare feet in the house so the tatami should last for many years.
I have an eclectic collection of miscellaneous knick-knacks on top of my Japanese desk. Ganesh sits next to a giant Troll doll with purple hair bought for two dollars at a weekend market, two minute origami cranes that were gifts from a best friend’s daughters lounge in front of an old Russian ink blotter that was hand carved during WW2. I have a Bakelite and metal calendar that I picked up while shopping with my uncle and aunt. I have a Russian doll that I painted as a red owl. A barometer stands next to a mini soft toy Totoro and a Gegege no Kitaro’s father plastic figurine. There is a collection of small interestingly shaped stones, there is sand in a tiny glass bottle from a friend who visited the Sahara Desert, a tiny capsule of red ochre collected while following the ghost of Matisee in France, a hand drawn postcard and an essential oil burner made out of rock.
There is a fabric coaster where I place my tea or coffee. There is a wooden stand where my fountain pen rests. The journal leans ready in the cubby hole. I have a green felt mat that I cut to size that I rest on top of the open desk. It is covered in paint splotches and I have no intention of replacing it for something new. This is a place of creativity, or mistakes and ideas. The old felt mat stays. The desk also has paint splotches too. I leave them there for the same reasons. I have ink bottles ready for when the ink runs out. Today I use Pelikan Edelstein’s Smoky Quartz ink. For everyday writing I use a red Lamy Safari fountain pen. I find the colour puts me into a good mood. I own several colours yet I keep going back to red. I write in a Japanese journal. The paper is exceptionally smooth. I like the sound of the ink gliding over the paper. I love stationery and paper. Smooth paper for journaling, And piles of blank and full journals and sketchbooks.
I make a cup of tea or coffee, I light a tealight candle, put a few drops of essential oils into the oil burner, change the old-fashioned Bakelite calendar by flipping the day of the week, scrolling the day of the month, I turn on the lamp, I get out my journal from the shelf, I pick up my fountain pen and I start writing. If I’m really lucky one of our cats will curl up in the basket and be in my eye line. It’s a peaceful view.
I have created a place to write that is comfy. I have the flame of the tea light candle, the smell of the oils, a comfortable cushion on top of a legless swivel leather chair. The location is set, the writing instruments are laid out, the ritual is in motion. Something to drink. The one thing I don’t prepare is what I wear for my MP ritual. I wear what I am wearing at the time. The clothing isn’t important. Sometimes I am still in my pyjamas, other times dressed for lounging, or ready to go out. For the MP ritual the clothing isn’t a part of it. The only thing would be that the clothing be comfortable for sitting cross-legged. Nothing more.
But what do I write? How many pages do I write? I write the date at the top, the day of the week in Spanish, and a simple tiny picture of the weather. The next line down I write where I am, the city. And after that I write whatever comes into my head. I mostly write three pages. I write down my thoughts, my feelings, my emotions, my dreams, my gripes, my questions, my ideas. Anything. I write out an affirmation five times somewhere in those three pages. I also write down three things that I’m grateful for. Some days the words just flow and the end of the third page is a breeze. I end with the words ‘Well done.” I rarely read what I write again. It is really to clear my mind of clutter. Sometimes there are a few good ideas and I might flip back to it to remind myself. Some days I am up and down like a yo-yo and it takes forever to finish. Some days one page is all that happens. What I write, how much I write is not the point of the ritual. The point of the ritual is to show up and open the journal.
Do I notice when the candle flame goes out? Not usually. Do I watch the clock to see if I am writing fast enough? Sometimes. On those days I am writing like a snail pushing a nut uphill. Do I forget to change the month on the desk calendar? Sometimes. The sound of the click as the metal hits the bottom of the date is very satisfying. One more day of writing to do. I am showing up. I am here.
What daily, weekly, monthly or annual rituals have you added to your life?
Sober as a line of Sahara sand.