The voice is soft and soothing in the background, leading me into this chorus of mindfulness. Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath. In, out, in, out. Picture the air moving through your nose, your lungs, and down into your abdomen. I follow orders while attempting to shift whatever fluttering thoughts ruminate in the dark corners of my mind. It is the hardest part about meditation, to quiet the running mind. Take one deep breath, letting the air fill your body. As you exhale, let your shoulders fall into a relaxed position. I follow instructions with thoughtfulness. I let the voice soothe me into a calm, but my mind won’t stop running its internal dialogue.
Meditation is about the only time I allow my body and mind to rest, consciously. It represents the only scheduled activity(not counting sleep) that revolves around doing nothing – sitting while attempting to focus on nothing. It is relaxing and a welcomed break from everything else and quickly becoming my favorite daily activity. However, the aim here is not to sell you the art of meditation. I’ve realized something much more important.
First, the powers of mindfulness meditation
My early observations into the field of mindfulness meditation have uncovered a copious range of powers and benefits. Among its most prized and glorified are the continuous improvement, and development of awareness, focus, and appreciation of self and the environment. One month into a daily program of meditation has untapped these advantageous traits. Slowly and progressively.
Meditation offers a quiet place to repose when life gets too loud and dreary. It represents a safe hideaway, where I can go when jitters creep into play or discontent begins to mount. The soothing practices help to assuage these negative conspirators. But in my daily meditation thus far, one constant pattern has repeatedly been present, my busy mind. With its belligerent disregard for the mental calm I aim to achieve, I have noticed, ironically, how creatively concise my mind seems to be during this time of meditation.
Enter the paradox
It seems that as I try to quiet my mind, a spark of ideas ignites. Almost always. Nearly every session of mindfulness meditation – a spell of 15 minutes – my mind evokes innovative and new ideas. The mental calm seems to provide a blank canvas where ideas can incubate with freedom and scope. The further I have pushed to train my mental focus to repel thoughts and ideas from my mind during meditation, the more new ideas have burst into the window of my (awakened) brain. Shouldn’t fewer ideas be floating around in my mind during meditations? Even though my expressed intent is on quieting that mental space, I continuously harbor fresh thoughts and ideas. Why am I enriched with a clairvoyant voice during meditation? Why are all my good ideas sparking during this time of mental calm and inner reticence?
The paradox is enlightening and reveals a lot about the way I(we) live my(our) life(lives). The notion is relevant to walking and the boon to creativity that the activity incites. Quieting the mind seems to give it space to do its natural thing. Without the shackles of a persistent stream of new information blockading the mind’s ability to wander, it frees itself up to new ideas and thinking. How convenient!
Can mindfulness meditation boost creativity?
Absolutely and resoundingly, yes! It seems that mindfulness meditation, a practice used essentially to quiet the busy mind, can be used effectively as a tool to bolster creativity.
Mindfulness for Creativity, a book by Danny Penman, explores the realm of creativity linked to meditation practices. In his book, he argues that mindfulness practices open the mind to divergent thinking – making new ideas. It also explores how meditation works toward improving attention and awareness, making it easier to pick up on the usefulness of new ideas as they arise. Finally, mindfulness meditation builds resilience, which helps engage with new ideas and deal with potential setbacks that arise with these new ideas.
Meditation helps to clear the mind of rumination – a negative flow state of harmful repetitive thoughts. By consistently thinking about ‘bad thoughts’, anxiety is more prone to set in, leading to blockages of positive thinking; positive thinking is where creativity feels most at home. Mindfulness meditation is one way of dealing with rumination – this clearing of the mind.
Stop thinking – Stop consuming
This idea represents the biggest takeaway for me; to stop thinking, to stop consuming information all the time. Breaking away from the endless loop of information available across the day allows for a clearing of the mind – the cozy space where ideas can incubate.
So we know that mindfulness meditation offers an easy practice to help clear the mind and make way for a fresh flow-state of new ideas and creative endeavors. But what other ways can I shift my focus away from thinking about things and into a world of silent reflection?
Similar to mindfulness meditation, walking offers prodigious benefits to both body and mind. Listening to music can have similar effects or just sitting down while thoughtfully trying to focus on nothing in particular. The main point is clearing the mind and allowing it the space to generate new patterns and thoughtful observations. That can happen at any stage throughout the day and is why people often profess to ‘being hit’ with new ideas at random times and places. The mind is most efficient when it is clear.
While you begin to breathe slowly, I’d like to direct your awareness to the different stages of the breath. I settle in for another meditation session, unencumbered by swirling thoughts that ruminate in my head, aware that my focus is shifting to my breath. First, notice the breath as it enters your nose. Feel the coolness of your breath as you inhale. I am drifting away, clearing the mind of unwanted thoughts. It’s hard, but I’ve learned to focus on this step. Feel the air going down into your chest and abdomen. Now feel the air as you exhale it out of your body. Ideas persist, but I refrain from putting any attention onto them. And then it hits, a new writing idea! Of course, I need to push this idea away as I bog down into my meditation session. But I am aware that new ideas are on the verge, waiting to erupt from the latent flow of this practice.
In my search to be more attentive, focused, and aware, I have taken up mindfulness meditation. The daily practice has helped me quiet my mind by clearing the repetitive noise that disturbs my positive thinking. In the process of absorbing everything that meditation has to offer, I have come across this paradox – that the quiet of meditation helps springboard new ideas. Regardless of whether I can remember these new ideas once the meditation practice is complete, it feels great having discovered the usefulness of clearing the mind. I feel able to adopt similar approaches in my everyday experience to increase my ability to generate new ideas.
Now take one long deep breath.