4th May 2020

Mindfulness & creativity part 2. 

Mindfulness & creativity part 2.

In our previous blog about mindfulness and creativity we looked at the relationship between meditation and the creative process. And what we discovered was by entering a more focussed state we experience enhanced levels of divergent thinking. Sounds fancy but it essentially means you have a higher volume of original ideas after becoming mindful.

So what exactly is meditation?

How do we, as creatives and professionals, apply a mindfulness practice around our busy lives? In a nutshell, meditation is the act of holding your awareness on a singular object, or activity, in order to induce a more focussed and relaxed state of being. But hold tight, let’s rewind for a second, because to understand meditation we need to introduce you to something which you may, or may not, have considered before. Your inner world.

Your inner world will vary from day to day. It is the ever-fluctuating flow of the thoughts, feelings, and emotions which never cease to arise within us. This non-stop chattering often escapes our attention and goes unchecked. Revisiting the past, imagining the future, and straining to control our lives. So, what’s the point? You ask.

The point is that all these rogue thoughts are getting in the way of the awesome creative inside of you. And the more your voice is allowed to chatter away, the less quality ideas you’ll likely recognise. Inspiration needs room to grow you know!

Here’s where mindfulness comes in. As your mind becomes more focussed, and the endless chattering begins to slow, your inner world will become a more peaceful place. A place where divergent thinking has space to flourish, giving way to fresher ideas.

Meditation is the act of holding your awareness on a singular object, or activity, in order to induce a more focussed and relaxed state of being.

Chomping at the bit to give it a try? Here are two simple practices to experiment with. The writer of this blog would suggest sitting comfortably in a reasonably quiet place with eyes open or closed. This can be on a chair, sofa, or bed. No lotus position required, just whatever feels right to you. It really doesn’t matter so long as you feel relaxed and your back is straight(ish).

 

Breath meditation (we won’t use the fancy names).

Quite simply, this exercise asks the practitioner to pay attention to their own breathing. Just breathe normally, through your nose if possible, and centre your awareness around that most natural of functions. Observe the repetitions. The cooling inhalation, and warmer exhalation. The rise and fall of your abdomen. Choose one element and focus closely.

As you practice you’ll notice the arising of thoughts and mental chatter. One moment you’ll be fully focussed on your breathing, then, out of nowhere, you’ll slip back into thought without even realising. This is a good thing! It means your inner world is growing more subtle. Simply observe the slip and then refocus your mind back toward the characteristics and rhythms of your breathing.

These slips will happen regularly and are vitally important. They help facilitate the transition between your average, bubbly mind state, and a far more relaxed and focussed state. Think of them as steps which lead you down into relaxation.

No lotus position required, just whatever feels right to you. It really doesn’t matter so long as you feel relaxed and your back is straight(ish).

Mantra meditation.

This second practice can feel strange at first, but is actually a very simple and powerful way to enter a more mindful state. First you need to choose your mantra. Simply pick a short word or phrase (Ram and I am are popular) and repeat this silently inside your head as you breathe. Attentively recite your mantra, once with the in-breath and once with the out-breath, paying close attention to the shapes and sounds of the words.

Once again, as you tend to your practice, slips will occur. The chatter of your inner voice will find subtle ways to sneak up on you and vie for your attention. And, as mentioned above, this is a good sign. It means that your state is altering. Once you become aware of your newly arisen thought, just observe it passively then return to your mantra.

Whichever method you try it’ll all seem slightly odd and alien at first. The mind likes familiar things, and if you’ve never tried meditating before, it’s all quite unfamiliar. Your head is a busier place than you might think! The important thing is to practice softly and not force anything. Remain passive, observe interruptions, then return to your practice.

Try five minutes at first, or even less. Once you feel comfortable with that length, extend it by two or three minutes. These small sessions really can be done anywhere. In your bedroom or lounge, on a park bench, in your car, even at your desk. Just make a decision to set that time aside. A consistent practice at the same time each day will help.

Try five minutes at first, or even less. Once you feel comfortable with that length, extend it by two or three minutes.

But how do you know if your meditation went well? Tricky question! The number one sign of a successful practice is extended periods of focus. The mind becomes stiller, and less slips will occur.

In honesty, if you’re totally new to mindfulness, the first few sessions might be a little stormy. But if you practice each day once or twice for a week or so, they should begin to smooth out nicely. Generally speaking, your mind should feel slightly less thinky once your practice is finished. You may also experience a lift in mood. And let’s not forget that boost in creativity! The longer your meditation session lasts, the greater the benefit. But build up slowly, adding a few minutes each week. It’ll all develop over time. No rush.

And there you have it! Simple mindfulness and meditation exercises which can be practiced anywhere. Your lunch hour will never be the same again, zen master. And be prepared for more lightbulbs and eureka moments than ever before.

 

Author: Matt Eeles
Senior Creative