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How a meditation practice fosters greater creativity

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Some of the best creative thinkers credit meditation to helping them develop great ideas. Movie director David Lynch, in his book ‘Catching the big fish: meditation, consciousness and creativity,’ describes the experience of “diving within” and “catching” ideas like fish – and then preparing them for television or movie screens. Large corporates such as Google are offer their staff meditation courses too, recognising the important role it plays in cultivating innovative ideas and creativity.

So what is it about meditation and mindfulness that fosters greater creativity?

When you are meditating or being mindful, you are in the present moment. Instead of being caught up in your thoughts, ruminating on the past, and/or worrying about the future, activities that use a lot of mental and emotional energy, you could be doing any one of the following things:

  • Noticing body sensations
  • Observing thoughts
  • Watching the breath
  • Driving and noticing the contact of your hands on the steering wheel
  • Walking and noticing the contact of your feet on the floor
  • Drinking a hot chocolate and savouring the taste of chocolate in your mouth.

When you’re doing any of the above-mentioned things, even briefly, you are not trapped in mindless, habitual behaviours or thinking patterns. Habitual behaviours and thinking patterns hinder creativity and innovation, as does anxiety, depression and stress.

Flynn Coleman, lawyer and creativity consultant suggests:

Mindfulness is at the core of all creative activity. When we embrace the present, the stress of our past and our future fades, and we can expand the boundaries of our imagination. Once we strip away the calcified assumptions about ourselves and our world, we can see everything from a fresh perspective. It is here, as Thoreau wrote, that we discover new ideas ‘like falling meteors,’ suddenly appearing before us ‘with a flash and an explosion.’

David Michie, in his book ‘Why mindfulness is better than chocolate,’ states that:

When we practise mindfulness we let go of assumptions, which enable us to see familiar challenges through fresh eyes. We have greater clarity and objectivity which allows us to see solutions that may be staring us in the face, only we were too distracted to recognise them. Calm and relaxed, we are also more playful, and it is on this rising tide of vitality, openness and joie de vivre that creativity is born.

In my experience, it is not uncommon for what I describe as ‘useful thoughts’ to strike during a meditation practice. For example, during a meditation, I might come up with a more effective approach to solving a problem at work, or identify a more appropriate way to tackle a difficult person. My meditations can also serve as a reminder service with thoughts like ‘call the client tomorrow,’ ‘email that person,’ ‘oh I have that deadline,’ all being part of the flavour. While these are not particularly innovative thoughts, they are important. I daresay I would forget to do so important things related to work without a regular meditation practice!

The more I meditate, the more I value quiet and uninterrupted space in which to think and daydream, and the more I see it having an impact on my life.   Whereas I previously held the view that the harder I worked, the better solution I would come up with, I now understand that working long hours can bring huge stress and anxiety to my life, resulting in burnout, which only serves to hinder the creative process. I frequently meditate with a pen and paper next to me – this means when I have an idea or thought I can write it down rather than spend the rest of my meditation practice trying to remember my ideas.

A regular meditation practice and a mindful approach to daily activities has certainly assisted me to develop and build on ideas. It should be stated that this is unlikely to happen after one meditation sit – it has been my experience (and that of many other regular meditators) that new ideas rise to the surface as a result of a regular and committed meditation and mindful practice.

You can learn how to develop a regular meditation practice by learning to meditate.

Meditation courses and classes in Preston commence from 1 February. Register here for the next learn to meditate course in Preston.

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