Why meditation boost creativity?
Have you ever got stuck while writing or generating ideas? I always do. For many creatives, meditation is a good option to foster creativity and I’m interested in why it can do so. For me, toilets and parks are the places where good thoughts come to me naturally because I feel liberating while having a shower or detoxifying in the toilet, and I’m relaxed while walking in the green park. Do I have to work in toilets and parks? Yes and no. Yes for parks. Toilets? No. So how about meditation? How does it work for creativity?
To my surprise, there are so many different kinds of meditation and they vary in results. For now, I only focus on two kinds that are most relevant to creativity — Open Monitoring Meditation(OMM) and Transcendental Meditation(TM).
It’s the non-judgmental attitude
What do scientists say about OMM? It basically trains our mind to be in the present moment by simply stopping to react to and judge what’s happening now and paying passive attention to our breathing, sensations, and thoughts. This can develop awareness of our experiences instead of immediate emotional reaction towards what’s going on in our mind including our past and projection about the future.1 As a result, with this non-judgmental attitude towards our thoughts and emotions, we are primed to be open-minded and come up with new ideas or perspectives.
Many artists practice TM, which is a simple effortless meditation technique that uses a mantra as a tool to let the mind settle down naturally. Just like diving in the wavy surface of the ocean and then diving deep to the bottom of the ocean for stillness. The ultimate is to transcend thought. Let’s take David Lynch, a famous filmmaker, as an example. He practices TM for big fishes, his unique ideas for films. He believes TM is a way for world peace and he even established David Lynch Foundation for children to learn TM. He is truly an advocate of TM.
Deep rest and inner peace
In the book Catching The Big Fish, David Lynch puts it beautifully: “Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and purer. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.” What I learn from David from his book is that when you are in a state of deep rest and feeling peaceful within, negativity and fear go away completely. This is a turning point in creation. And this is a beautiful state. Peace of mind leads to creativity where you can create freely with enjoyment.
Liberating unique self-expression
The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life is a book that records the creative journey of a photographer who creates works with meditation. He points out that you feel the world with strong emotions towards certain things that resonate with you particularly but may not with others. So your way of experiencing the world is unique. Self-expression is what you are trying to show this unique experience. It’s your experience. It’s your thing. Creativity lies within you. All you have to do is to be yourself.
The thing about meditation is: you become more and more you.
It’s awkward sometimes
I have tried guided meditation at night before sleep for about two months. Most of the time I was breathing in silence and trying to stay still despite the fact that my leg and hip muscles were contracting. Worse still, sometimes I couldn’t help breaking the silence with a pretty embarrassing noise. I farted loud and long. Lucky that no one noticed except me.
Apart from the awkward moments, I feel refreshed, reset and energized after meditation. Just like rebooting a laptop. Everything starts afresh. As I breathe in more oxygen consciously and limit physical movement during meditation, my mind has more energy to stay awake. I enjoy the calmness and awareness. It helps me to clear the negative thoughts and declutter memories from the past, creating space for the mind to rest and focus on now. I find myself happier, more productive and let go quick after meditating.
If you’re interested to understand mindfulness meditation (OMM is one of it) better, try reading Mindfulness in Plain English and Wherever You Go, There You Are. Or follow the guided meditation to practice yourself. After all, practice is the only way to get there.