Creating Mindful Beginnings by Michelle Regan
This guest post is written by yoga teacher and writer Michelle Regan:
Let’s start at the beginning. With the abject terror of embarking on something new. The blank page is scary. There, I said it. But beginnings are only beginnings because we haven’t started yet. Instead of inhabiting the fear that lurks behind the blinking cursor, we can choose another path. We can connect with our innate sense of creativity.
I like to think of creativity as the delicate curation of the thoughts that flow through us. But many times we can’t get started because there’s too much noise in our heads. Did I leave the kettle on? What’s that smell? Are the kids fighting in the other room? I’m thirsty. Expelling that noise creates space for new thought and the capacity to reflect on it.
A few years ago, I worked my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a 12-week self-guided workshop in creativity that’s become a cult classic among artists of all stripes. By far, the exercise that I found most useful is Cameron’s morning pages. She suggests writing three pages every morning as soon as you wake up. They don’t need to be pretty, they don’t even need to be about anything. They just need to be.
By committing what’s in your head to the page, you expel the noise. Cameron calls this exercise “the primary tool of creative recovery.” My morning pages allowed me to approach each day without the clutter and weight of whatever came before. It’s also a great exercise to help you conquer fear of the blank page. When I can’t seem to get started, giving voice to my thoughts allows me to begin with an uncluttered mind. Without the noise, I’m ready to connect.
First and foremost, creation is feeling. When we create, we’re translating a universal truth or feeling. Our job is to forge a connection, to move people. It doesn’t matter what form your creativity takes. Each of us uses our unique lens, our personal thoughts and feelings, to filter these truths into our work. In order to create, we need to connect to our body and mind.
Here’s an exercise I use in my yoga classes to help students arrive on their mats and find a mindful beginning. Sit quietly for a moment. Deepen your breath to a count of four. In for four, pause, out for four, pause, repeat. What do you feel, physically? Notice the breath as it comes in and out through the nose. Notice your chest rising and falling, your belly expanding and contracting. Where are you starting from? Consider the piece you’re trying to start. What emotions does it bring up? What does it feel like to inhabit that space physically and emotionally? How can you convey that in a way that moves people?
Now, try to put it into words. Write something, anything. Just getting words on the page will help break through any blocks. Make it better later. Now is the time to feel and explore. I like to write out thoughts or quotes as a loose foundation. A lot of it gets deleted later. Almost all of it gets rewritten, but this exploration helps me set my course. If outlining works for you, bullet it out. If stream-of-consciousness works for you, let it flow. Just find a way to start.
Beginnings are built up to be something wholly unattainable — get your elevator pitch down, hook them with the lede, first impressions are everything. It’s enough to make a girl cower at the cursor. But know that for every spectacular opening, there were 10 failed ones. Maybe more.
Here’s a secret: the beginning loses its power once it’s started. Once it’s the middle or the middle of the beginning or even the second line, you’ve already cleared the first hurdle. Congrats, on to the next.
Start by quieting the noise and getting curious about why your idea means something to you. Mindful beginnings pave the way for moving middles and meaningful endings. We have to start at the beginning, but we can choose who shows up to the page.
Michelle Regan is a writer and yoga teacher who's passionate about sharing all the ways in which yoga and creativity can be transformative forces in our lives. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and petting all the dogs.