When I first started out as a family therapist, I created a very simple, quick “mindfulness meditation” that I employed between client sessions. Beginning therapists generally find their first sessions highly stressful, because they imagine that they are supposed to know how to “fix” their clients. I certainly experienced that anxiety.
Over time, therapists learn that “fixing” isn’t the name of the game. But in the beginning, the self-induced pressure is on to do some fixing; and I found that my mini-mindfulness meditation helped me prepare myself for the impending session. Today’s post is on another use of mindfulness: to help us spur our creativity. That’s the theme of today’s post from creativity coach Jana Van der Veer.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, blocked, or distracted when you sit down to do your creative work, you may be wondering how to shift that energy to create more easily, with less stress. Many people have heard about the benefits of mindfulness in recent years, but fewer know how it can be used specifically to help boost creativity.
You may already meditate, but not necessarily with a view toward focusing on your creativity specifically. Or you may be skeptical that it could work for you. The good news is, you don’t have to go live on a mountaintop in Tibet for mindfulness meditation practice to have an impact on your life. Just five or ten minutes before you sit down to your work can help you get into an optimal state for creativity to flow.
A few minutes of mindful meditation can help you:
- Focus better, for longer periods of time
- Come up with more ideas and a wider range of ideas
- Achieve clarity on questions facing you in your work
- Prepare your mind for the work and get you into a flow state faster
- Help you become more resilient in facing rejection, setbacks, and the fear of judgment
As with anything else, consistent practice will help you gain results. It’s common at first for the mind to jump around, and for thoughts to chase each other. That is not a sign of failure! It is a sign of the “monkey mind” doing its thing. Too many people try meditation, have trouble focusing or sitting still, and give up, thinking it will never work for them. Give it even two weeks, and see if it creates a difference in your creative output.
The basic practice:
- Set a timer for 5-10 minutes (whatever feels doable for you). If you want to put some soft, wordless music on, you can do that too.
- Find a comfortable seated position. This can be on a chair or a cushion on the floor. Make sure your back is straight.
- Close your eyes, or look ahead of you and slightly down.
- Take three deep, cleansing breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Focus on the sensation of the breath going in and out of your body.
- Breathe normally, but try to keep your focus on the sensation of the breath wherever you feel it the strongest. This might be in your nose, or the rise and fall of your stomach.
- Don’t try to “not think.” Let your thoughts and emotions arise, and let them go. An image may help, such as clouds passing through a blue sky, or leaves bobbing down a river’s current. When you find yourself being caught up in emotions and thoughts, bring your mind gently back to the breath.
- When the timer goes off, don’t just jump up and go. Take a few more mindful breaths, and then, with deliberation, move to your work.
You can focus on a specific affirmation instead of the breath (for example, “I have unlimited creativity, and I create joyfully and easily,” or “Every day I practice I become better and better at my craft,” or something related to a specific issue or goal you have).
Or you can ask yourself a question before you begin your meditation, and let your mind be open to receiving the answer. Note that you might not hear it during the meditation itself, but when you sit down to work it may pop into your mind just at the right moment.
The mind is a powerful instrument, and it will support your creativity if you take the time to stop, breathe, and let it do its work.
You can find Jana Van der Veer at setyourmuseonfire.com.