Tag Archives: dream diaries

Not everyone loves ‘morning pages’

I usually mention the idea of ‘morning pages’ in writing workshops because I think a regular writing practice is a really good thing for authors and I know a lot of writers who love doing them, either on the long term or for a few weeks to help them get unstuck when they feel blocked.

I’ve personally never used ‘morning pages’ because my daily practice is my dream journal so I was interested to read ‘Morning pages may not be the artist’s way’ by Maria C McCarthy. She and several commenters suggest that ‘morning pages’ can easily turn into an outpouring of ‘negative and angry stuff’ going over and over the same concerns day after day.

Two great writing books that recommend morning pages
Two great writing books that recommend morning pages

Her criticism of the book that made the idea popular ‘The Artist’s Way’ is that the author, Julia Cameron, offers it as the solution for every writer. My problem with that book is that I don’t think it acknowledges the earlier bestseller, ‘Becoming a Writer’ by Dorothea Brande, which describes exactly the same practice, but that’s a separate issue.

Maria McCarthy suggests adapting the ‘morning pages’ idea by not making it totally free, but rather focusing it around a topic. Specifically, she talks about John Siddique’s idea of free writing around the ideas in Stephen R Covey’s  ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.’

I sometimes suggest using writing prompts which are self-generated for daily writing and I think this also circumvents the grinding wheels of our discontents, shifting the focus to images and themes that interest us.

Having read that for some people completely free writing may turn into a sump of misery, I may be including a health warning next time I discuss the idea of ‘morning pages’ with a group.

Related posts – ‘Daily pages vs dreams’ , ‘Do you have a daily practice’ and ‘What are the best writing prompts for daily practice?’

Have you ever tried writing ‘morning pages’? Or do you have a different daily practice you could recommend? 

What’s the explanation for ‘deja vu’?

‘Deja vu’ means ‘already seen’ or ‘seen before.’ It’s when we feel a strong sense of recognition in a new place, as if we’ve been there before but can’t remember when.

It can occur even in places we know for certain we have never visited in the past. We may actually find that we know the layout of the rooms, or what’s round the corner in the road.

Often, ‘deja vu’ is accompanied by a strong emotional reaction to the place we recognise – perhaps a warm sense of belonging, or a feeling of sadness, or a desire to get away.

A scientific explanation of this phenomenon is that it’s some kind of blip in the brain – a disturbance in the electrical activity which causes a momentary illusion that we’ve seen the place previously when in fact we’re seeing it for the first time.

A more metaphysical explanation is that ‘deja vu’ is connected with past lives – we recognise a place because we were there in a former life. But how could that account for feelings of ‘deja vu’ which arise in a modern environment?

Larking around outside the old Town Hall in Wimbledon – part of a shopping centre now

Years ago, I revisited the town I grew up in, Wimbledon, with an old friend from school. Before the visit, I dreamt I was walking from my childhood home into the town centre, and when I got there, I was surprised to find the old Town Hall was now a shopping centre.

When we arrived, I found the town centre was exactly as I had dreamt it. You may say I must have heard about the redevelopment in the media or something, and simply forgotten. But this sort of thing happens quite often, in relation to places which have never been in the media.

Five years ago, I wanted to move house, and I was looking at cul-de-sac bungalows within a certain area. I happened upon the house I eventually found quite by chance, on an evening out – it was in the wrong place, but I viewed it on a whim, and as soon as I walked in the door, it just felt like my house.

Recently, reading back through some old dream diaries, I discovered that I had dreamt I took a detour on a house-finding mission, to view a little miner’s cottage in the middle of a terrace on the edge of the moor – I had actually dreamt about this house.

I don’t know if there is a definitive explanation for ‘deja vu’, but my own experience suggests that when we feel we have been in a place before, we have – in our dreams.

Have you ever experienced ‘deja vu’? What do you think is the explanantion?

If the doors of perception were cleansed

To round off my blog birthday celebrations, here is ‘the one that got away’ – an article about my spiritual path of dreams which was published on another blog earlier in the year  

When people talk about dreams as spiritual experience, they usually seem to be thinking in terms of what Jung called ‘numinous’ dreams – that is, dreams which have an unmistakably spiritual quality, inspiring awe and wonder, and often bringing revelations.

These ‘big’ dreams do indeed feel like wonderful gifts from outside the self, and they stay vividly with you across the decades, lighting your life. But dreams which feel quite ordinary can also be a doorway to profound changes in consciousness.

 

For example, I once dreamt I was having coffee with my neighbour. I was fully aware that I was dreaming – lucidity is very common in experienced dreamers.

Normally, in lucid dreams, my waking ‘I’ might be there as an observer or commentator, and occasionally if I didn’t like the way things were going, I might intervene and change the action of the dream.

But this dream didn’t have any action at all. It didn’t have any narrative to distract me – I was just sitting there, drinking coffee, and I was bored. There was a silky cushion beside me, and I ran my hand absent-mindedly across it. I noticed how smooth the fabric felt; I ran my fingers along the hard ridge of the trim.

I thought, ‘Hold on a minute – this is a dream!’ Since nothing much else was going on, I went on testing the evidence of my senses and yes, I really could smell the coffee; I really could feel the crumbly biscuit between my fingers and taste its light vanilla on my tongue. I could hear my neighbour’s voice, talking to me. I knew it was a dream, but it felt exactly the same as ‘real’ life.

 

When I woke up, I could feel the quilt resting lightly across my body; I could see the light from the gap in the curtains ribboning across it; I could hear my husband’s gentle breathing and smell the warmth of our two bodies. But now I knew that my mind could create a whole different reality which felt as real to my senses as this one. So the senses were unreliable witnesses, and waking life a reality no more substantial than the dream.

When you read back over old dream diaries, you will also find that seemingly ordinary dreams can be precisely predictive, and you may find so many of these that it’s impossible to dismiss them all as flukes and coincidences.

According to our normal understanding of time, it should not be possible to predict the future, but the experience of predictive dreaming shows irrefutably that it is.

So gradually, actively engaging with dreams can dissolve the narrow rational and materialistic viewpoint, through which we normally understand life. In the words of William Blake, ‘man has closed himself up, ’til he sees things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.’

The practical, experiential path of dreaming can lead to a falling-away of ideas and illusions, and open you up to the mind-blowing reality. ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.’

        

Daily pages vs dreams

A few of my lovely dream diaries
A few of my lovely dream diaries

One of my favourite books about writing is Dorothea Brande’s ‘Becoming a writer.’ It was published in the 1930’s and is still in print, which attests to just how good it is.

Brande says we should treat our writer self as two people, the creative, playful child and the business-like, grown-up critic. We should develop and nurture both sides of our writer self, and teach them to work in harmony.

She refers to the creative side as the unconscious, and suggests one way of opening to it through the practice of daily pages, an idea which later formed the core of another writing bestseller, ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron.

The concept of daily pages is that you write stream-of-consciousness for twenty minutes a day, ideally first thing in the morning before the concerns of the day have a chance to intrude. You keep the pen moving on the paper, even if all you can think of is along the lines of, ‘I don’t want to do this, I can’t think of anything to say, it’s a bit rainy outside…’

One effect of this is to help you let go of the idea you have to wait for inspiration before you can write anything – you can write your way in. Another is that you learn to allow unconscious products to emerge when the mind is relaxed and receptive.

Many of my writing friends have found writing daily pages really useful, but it didn’t really do anything for me. It occurred to me that the reason why was because I already wrote first thing in the morning, recording my dreams, and rather than my conscious mind idling and allowing random stuff to come up, I had been fully immersed in this amazing inner world. So, unlike daily pages, my dream diary was full of interesting incidents and images.

Check out my ‘Tips’ page for information about how to start recalling and recording your dreams