Fire Up Your Neuronal Network
Four Ways Meditation Ignites Creative Genius
Posted Nov 12, 2015
Meditation serves as a gateway between the everyday lives we lead and our innermost selves, that which makes us unique and feels most authentic to who we are—in life, and in art. The more access we have to the innermost, sacred parts of our self, the more we are able to express what matters most to us in our work.
Meditation calms your brain and trains it to focus on whatever it is that you mediate upon, even if that is a reminder to release all unrelated thoughts to whatever it is you want to focus upon. By removing distractions, you are gifting your brain the opportunity to release what’s not important (or is cluttering your mind), clarify thoughts, and hone in on what’s most important to you.
It doesn’t take much to learn how to sit quietly for 15 minutes and to send all intruding thoughts away, as if they are drifting away in thought balloons—particularly when doing so brings clarity, commitment, and calm. Here are four ways meditation improves brain functioning, thereby bolstering creativity.
It Reduces Stress
When you meditate (no matter which form you use), your brain enters a meditative state and:
- The frontal lobe/cortex, the most highly evolved part of the brain (reasoning, planning, emotions, and self-conscious awareness), powers down.
- The parietal lobe, the part of the brain that processes sensory information about the surrounding world (orienting you in time and space), gets a breather.
- The thalamus, gatekeeper for the senses (it’s responsible for focusing your attention by funneling some sensory data deeper into the brain and blocking other signals from coming in), cycles down, reduces incoming information to a trickle.
- The reticular formation, the part of the brain called the sentry (it receives incoming stimuli and alerts the brain to get prepared to respond to whatever “new” stimuli excites it), dials down the arousal signal.
Over time, meditation becomes a calming signal for the brain, helping with overall stress reduction, relaxation, and renewal. If practiced regularly, simply quieting your mind will become easier over time.
It Heightens Insights, Ideas, and Connections
Meditation has been widely shown to increase our abilities to be more perceptive and insightful, which is crucial for creativity and writing. The more you practice meditation, the stronger those sensory muscles will become. Also, practicing meditation quiets the brain chatter that makes it hard to concentrate and fosters the brain circuits that use a steady gaze to look within. Studies have shown that meditation reduces anxiety by calming the amygdala, which is where our brains process fear. During meditation, our brain shifts from the stress-prone right frontal cortex to the calmer left frontal cortex, which facilities greater insights, ideas, and connections.
It Quiets Distracting Thoughts
Meditation is a testament to focus; it’s training your mind to quiet itself, ignore distracting thoughts, and focus all attention on the “here and now,” what’s happening in the present, and how your mind and body are responding to it. Practiced meditators are able to experience the joy of creating or writing in the moment, without attaching expectations or worrying thoughts to the process required. They generally experience more moments of flow, that precious time when all sense of time fades and one gets lost in the art of creating or writing. Now that’s something well worth pursuing.
It Fires Up Your Creativity
Meditation bridges the gap between observations—what we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch—and what we can dream, imagine, or create while “in the creativity zone” because it:
- Creates a receptive state for insights, revelations, and intuition, all of which will add depth to your creativity and writing.
- Calms an agitated mind and reduces anxiety in general.
- Boosts access to your innermost self, what makes you unique in the world—and helps you feel more confident creating or writing from that place.
- Helps you move smoothly between three levels of awareness: intellectual/ego, emotional/intuitive, and imaginative/inspirational.
- Quiets brain chatter, soothes rattled feelings, and improves ability to live “in the moment.”
- Helps you enjoy the creating/writing process as it happens, by focusing thoughts on the present rather than dwelling on past or worrying about the future.
- Improves attention and concentration; the more you meditate, the better you’ll become at focusing and concentrating.
- Induces the desirable state of flow, when ideas and words seem to magically appear.
In addition to helping you transition from paying attention to something (or everything) else to paying attention to writing, meditation has amazing long-term benefits for your brain, which we’ll discuss next time.
Meanwhile to fire up your writing brain—or bolster any form of creativity—meditate before you begin, and you’ll likely feel more relaxed, more open, and more focused. In addition, your top (thinking cortex) brain will be communicating more efficiently with your bottom (limbic system) brain, bringing all the intellect you have to bear to the task at hand.
Susan Reynolds is the author of Fire Up Your Writing Brain: How to Use Proven Neuroscience to Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Writer. She also coauthored Train Your Brain to Get Happy, and Train Your Brain to Get Rich.