If you’re a meditator, there’s a good chance that you come to the cushion every day because it’s good for your health or because it makes you feel more calm and centered. Maybe it’s part of your spiritual practice, or perhaps you find it makes you feel less stressed and more productive.
But if you’re an artist or do any sort of creative work, one of the best reasons to meditate is to boost creative thinking. As many writers, musicians, and innovators know, mindfulness is one of the most powerful tools we have for tapping into our deepest creativity.
Meditation can help us quiet racing thoughts and tap into the quiet wisdom of the creative unconscious. Research has found that many new meditators reported a “flowering of creativity” after beginning their practice and an ability to see things in a different light and pursue new directions in life.
Here are five ways that meditation can turbo-charge your creativity:
1. You can tap into your deepest intuition.
When you let the swirl of thoughts and emotions settle, you might just find that you open up to your inner wisdom, paving the way for valuable creative insights and “a-ha!” moments.
Steve Jobs, who practiced Zen Buddhism, said that meditation helped him to see things in a different light:
“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is,” Jobs told his biographer Walter Isaacson. “If you try to calm it, it only makes things worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things — that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before.”
2. You'll become better at staying focused on your work.
It’s incredibly difficult to sit down and write or complete any sort of creative project when your attention is constantly being pulled away by phone notifications and social media updates.
Perhaps the single most valuable use of meditation for the creative person is in warding off unwanted distractions. A number of studies have shown meditation to improve focus, attention, and self-control.
As art house film director and Transcendental Meditation guru David Lynch puts it, distractions keep us stuck on the shallow surface of the mind. If we want to come up with truly creative ideas, we must have the focus to “go deep.”
“If you want to catch a little fish, you can stay in the shallow water,” Lynch wrote in his 2007 book Catching the Big Fish. “But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.”
3. You begin to overcome fear and self-criticism.
Fear is the most powerful creativity-killer there is. Meditation helps us to overcome fear of failure and harsh self-judgments. By turning down the volume on the voice of our inner critic, meditation helps us move into a place of pure self-expression and enjoyment.
DJ and recording artist Moby said that after two years of practicing meditation, he had achieved a higher quality of life and enhanced creativity, mostly by quieting the negativity and noise in his mind. He said that meditation helps him get past a place of fearing failure to one of more pure creativity: "When I meditate, I find I do things for more honest, more enjoyable and healthier reasons.”
4. You're more awake and present to what's around you.
Great artists are great observers — of life, the human condition, nature, their environment, and social mores. Creating art requires being deeply attuned to life in the myriad ways it presents itself.
Popular ideas of what it means to be mindful tend to leave out what social psychologist Ellen Langer calls "everyday mindfulness," the act of observing what’s around us. But the capacity to deeply observe is not only a key attentional skill, it’s also a distinct creative advantage.
“In noticing new things about the topic you’re considering to write, photograph, or paint about, you’re being creative,” she says. “By noticing new things about a topic, you see novel things about it. You see that the thing you thought you knew is different — everything looks different from different perspectives.
5. You're more relaxed and at ease.
We’re more creative when we’re relaxed and at ease. It's as simple as that. Meditation has been scientifically proven to lower stress levels, lessen feelings of anxiety and depression, and reduce negative self-talk while also boosting mood and overall well-being, thereby putting you in your most energized, creative mindset.
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