Meditation and Creativity
Meditation has been a core part of my life for over 10 years. It has been part of my daily routine and has helped me calm and still my mind, especially when I am working on a new creative idea.
When I start a new art or design project, I often get over stimulated with inspiration and ideas. My thoughts can become hectic and my mind is fixated on the project. But this can create a frustrations, performance pressure and erratic sleep patterns, which can and do affect the creative process.
Meditation and Creativity
So with applying meditation to my creative process I found it is a perfect and fast way out of these creative highs and lows. I have created a meditative space in my art room, and designed this Chakra Wall Hanging, to remind myself that we need to create a balance of our energy points to be able to sustain the creative process. To sit quietly with ideas and let them unfold naturally. To enjoy the sensations that art brings, the touch of the paint on the canvas, or the feel of the different mediums coming together in a final piece. Mediation also lets me cherish the creative process, the journey, not just the final result.
New studies have been emerging which show how and why my mindful practice actually innovated my thinking and made me more creative.
The Three Main Parts Of Our Brain
1. We Do Creative Thinking With Our Neocortex
This is the newest part of our evolving brain and essentially it is concerned with what I consider the important stuff: creative thinking, problem solving, visioning, hypothesizing, strategizing. Poetically speaking the neocortex is pretty selective about what it works on, so only if the two other main parts of the brain agree (explained below) will an idea get to the neocortex for processing.
2. Sometimes Our Emotions Get In The Way Of Our Thinking
The level below the neocortex is the limbic system, simply said this area processes our emotions, motivations, and memories. If we are feeling emotionally out of balance or distressed, this part of our brain gets activated, and our brain becomes ‘busy’ dealing with the stress and emotions at hand and won’t allocate resources to our creative thinking.
3. The Reptile Gatekeeper Is Relentless
The oldest part of our brain is the reptilian brain. This part of our brain is concerned with our survival and is primarily activated by adrenaline, it’s where our flight or fight response originates. It is a very lazy part of our brain so it only wants to process things which it deems critical to our survival. Because it is an old brain it is used to running away from wild animals, so it also has a tendency to overreact to small triggers in the modern world, but which don’t really require a massive surge of adrenaline to deal with. The reptilian brain also includes sex impulses, so if the idea is ‘mate-able’, dangerous or threatens our survival in any way it will get passed upwards, anything else essentially has a hard time getting to the neocortex.
So as you can see, what we think is a simple creative thought process is actually conditional to a lot of neuro-chemistry being aligned!
Mindfulness meditation is a great technique to learn to help improve creativity. It has side effects which have been shown to reduce the reactivity of the reptilian brain, increase resilience, stimulate the neocortex, as well as improve emotional intelligence. All these assist in getting ideas flowing directly to your best creative thinking brain: the neocortex.
The Walt Disney Company was an early adopter of meditation in the workplace, as they noticed a dramatic increase in creativity after employees meditated on creative solutions. Google has an in house mindfulness program called ‘Search inside Yourself’ and has built a labyrinth for mindful walking meditations.
There have been studies done specifically to measure the cognitive rigidity of people who meditate and their ability to solve problems in novel ways. The research shows non-meditators had greater cognitive rigidity than regular meditators, and they also had a tendency to apply difficult or outdated solutions to easy problems based on their past experiences, this was not the case for people who meditated.
To me the best test is, “Does it work for me?” So next time you find yourself stuck on a creative problem take some time out to be quiet and allow your stress to subside by focussing on your breath for a few minutes. Visualise the body as a line of energy starting from the base chakra, up through the spine to the top of the head. Imagine a beautiful bright energy flowing with each slow calm breathe. Starting a regular meditation practice will help you learn new skills and actually train your mind and get your emotions to calm down to allow your creative genius to flow!
Inspired by a post featured in Huffington Post by Bianca Rotheschild.