When you think about it, mindfulness practice gives you an obvious advantage.
While we don’t often associate meditation with becoming more creative, the byproducts of a regular meditation practice—such as focus, calmness, patience, clarity and perspective—go a long way toward boosting creativity.
Think about your normal day-to-day routine: driving, working, running from here to there, taking care of responsibilities and trying to accomplish an endless to-do list. We’ve become so busy being busy that we’ve forgotten to be present—as our minds are perhaps the busiest thing about us.
Listing, reminiscing, projecting, solving, ruminating, the mind does what it was designed to do: make thoughts. The incessant bombardment of thoughts, however, leaves little room for aha moments to occur. Meditation helps calm the mind, slowing down your thoughts and allowing space for ideation and insight to arise.
In fact, a study at Northwestern University, led by cognitive neuroscientist Mark Beeman, discovered that the brain waves of successful problem-solvers slowed down to an alpha rhythm—a relaxed but alert metal state synonymous to meditation—for a prolonged period of time leading up to the very moment of insight.
Meditation also teaches us the art of nonattachment. Becoming too attached to the end result of any creative endeavor (how it will turn out, how it will be perceived, whether or not it will be “successful”) seriously impedes creativity from flowing. The practice of mindfulness meditation gives us the opportunity to practice mini-moments of nonattachment, allowing thoughts, emotions and sensations to come and go without us clinging to them or becoming too caught up in any particular one.
The practice of meditation itself, in essence, is purposeless. There is no end goal and nothing really to show for it—you never really “arrive” anywhere. You just move deeper and deeper within. The idea that you are going to “get” something from your meditation practice can quickly result in frustration. When you commit to meditation for the purpose of simply turning your awareness inward, you recognize there’s nowhere to go, and it becomes easier to settle in. The same is true for creativity. When you create just for the sake of creating, letting go of any attachment to the outcome, your creative energy flows freely.
Let go of self-judgment
A regular meditation practice also fosters loving-kindness, for others as well as for ourselves. When it comes to being creative, we’re often the ones in our own way. Judgment, shame, lingering feelings of not-good-enough from not being able to draw the perfect tree in your sixth-grade art class (or whatever the incident was for you) are perhaps the biggest blocks to the creative process. A large component of nonattachment is total acceptance of whatever arises during meditation. With time, we learn to not only suspend judgment but also treat our own selves with a little more compassion.
When we treat ourselves with a little more compassion, we aren’t so quick or harsh to judge ourselves. We give ourselves more freedom to explore creatively and try things out that we don’t necessarily consider ourselves good at. We leave room to make mistakes, throw away and start over. We do more things just for fun, because we want to, because they add to our own personal fulfillment.
Photo credits: fizkes, Thinkstock; Shtrunts, Thinkstock; Death to the Stock Photo; kzenon, Thinkstock