Is creativity a matter of nature or nurture to you? Does it spontaneously arise when you least expect it to, or do you deliberately set about ‘trying’ to be creative? Are there times when you wish you could be more creative? And what does creativity mean to you anyway? Is it something that allows you to solve problems, is it something through which you express yourself physically, or is it something that keeps you feeling connected, in touch with the world around you? We can interpret and interact with this thing we call creativity. Sometimes the approach is full of good intention and yet nothing seems to arise, and yet other times we can be in the shower, or wandering what to have for lunch and the best idea in the world suddenly pops into our mind. So why does it happen like this, and what can we do about it? And is it even possible to train the mind to become more creative?
Well, when it comes to creativity, western psychologists often like to talk about it terms of ‘conscious’ and ‘subconscious’ mind, but that can be a bit of a red-herring, as it suggests that they are two distinct places, and that we somehow have to ‘access’ or ‘tap-in to’ this creative space. From a meditation point of view, that’s not strictly true. Sure, if you had to give a name to those thoughts and feelings you are not aware of in any given moment, I guess you could call them ‘subconscious’ - or anything else for that matter. But whatever you choose to call it, we are still talking about the mind...and there is only one mind!
Subconscious thoughts, or creative thoughts, are simply those thoughts which we are usually not aware of, which we are not conscious of. Yet they arise from the very same place as conscious thoughts. The reason we are often unaware of creative, inspirational and spontaneous thoughts is generally because the surface of the mind is constantly moving. The busy-ness of the mind creates ripples on the surface, in just the same way as throwing a stone into a pond creates ripples on the surface of the water. The problem is, most people get so caught up in the appearance of these ripples that the water never has a chance to settle. Again, just imagine looking into a pool of water… The calmer the water, the clearer the reflection. Again, the mind is no different, when the surface-thinking settles, it becomes much easier to see the contents of the mind - and therefore become conscious of the creative thoughts which you were previously not conscious of!
So, moments of downtime in the day, such as having a shower or taking a stroll, can help to explain why many great ideas wait until then to arise. It simply reflects a slowing down of mind-traffic, and therefore greater clarity and headspace. But there is something else happening in these moments too,which is equally significant. And that’s an absence of effort, an absence of trying, and absence of doing. We are so used to ‘doing’ things, that the mind can become very narrow, very limited. It loses the spacious quality from which creative thoughts manifest.
So, when we allow the mind to wander off in situations like taking a shower, it’s a bit like taking the mind off the leash, and it begins to behave very differently. The only downside with this approach is that it’s a bit hit and miss and we can’t guarantee when the next flash of inspiration will come from. And that’s why it’s so important to train the mind, to point it in the direction of an authentically creative space.
The creativity that we’re looking for is already there... we just need to learn how to sit back and allow it to appear. The more often we do that, the more familiar it becomes. In this way, it would be quite right to talk about meditation, in a creative context, in terms of ‘the discovery and familiarity of creativity’.
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