What Daily Meditation Can Do for Your Creativity

If you depend on your creativity for your living, then your most valuable piece of equipment is not your computer, smartphone, camera, or any other hi-tech gadget. “In a modern company 70 to 80 percent of what people do is now done by way of their intellects. The critical means of production is small, gray, and weighs around 1.3 kilograms. It is the human brain.”*So what are you doing to maintain this precious resource? You probably give it plenty of stimulation – books, movies, music, nights out, interesting conversations with offbeat people.

But I’m not talking about stimulation, quite the reverse. I’m talking about qualities such as focus, calmness, clarity, and insight. They may not sound so sexy, but they are at least as important to your creative process as the glamour and stimulation side of things. And amid the bustle of daily life and the chatter of social media, they are the qualities most easily lost.

What works for me is daily meditation. Every morning, before I start work, I spend 20 minutes sitting on a mat, focusing on the sensation of breathing, doing my best to be present and aware, and trying not to get tangled up in my thoughts. It makes all the difference for the rest of the day. And I’m convinced it makes me a better writer.

Qualities such as focus, calmness, clarity, and insight are as important to your creative process as glamour and stimulation.

I received my initial instruction in meditation from Buddhist monks. I’ve also been on a few meditation retreats, which I highly recommend. But you don’t need to disappear into a monastery to take up meditation. And you don’t need to be a Buddhist, or adopt any religious beliefs. You can do it right here in the middle of your daily life.

The Benefits of Meditation Practice for Creatives

It’s important to note that there’s a lot more to meditation practice than simply “boosting your creativity.” If I were to promote meditation as some kind of creative thinking technique, the monks would be rightly appalled – or amused. So the benefits I’m going to describe, while very real, are really side effects of meditation – if you approach meditation looking to “get” any of these things, you’ll probably be disappointed. On the other hand, if you just practice it for its own sake, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover yourself experiencing some or all of the following:

Focus. Concentration is essential to outstanding creative execution and performance. The simple act of focusing on your breathing day after day, will gradually improve your powers of concentration.

Patience. Meditation can be incredibly boring. For once in your life, you’re not trying to do anything or think anything, just sit there and pay attention to your immediate experience. And you will encounter all kinds of resistance to doing it. Zen priest Steve Hagen says, “If you can get past resistance to meditation, nothing else in life will be an obstacle.”

Calmness. At first, you’ll be surprised, maybe even horrified, to discover how busy your mind is – a non-stop stream of mental chatter. But if you stay with it, you should gradually find that your mind settles down as the months go by.

Clarity. Like calmness, this can be gradual and intermittent to begin with. But you are likely to notice moments and even periods of mental clarity, when you see things clearly and your mind is sharper than usual – which makes problem-solving and decision-making easier.

Insight. You’ve probably had the experience of suddenly realizing the solution to a problem, even though you haven’t been consciously thinking of it. Or you may have experienced a moment of inspiration, when a new idea flashes into your mind unbidden. If you’re practicing meditation regularly, expect this to happen more often.

Perspective. When you spend time just being present and observing your breath, thoughts, feelings, and moment-to-moment experience, you start to realize how trivial most of our daily worries really are. Even in the midst of the daily grind, you can let go of the small stuff, and keep the big picture in view.

Getting Started

The kind of meditation I practice is a mixture of concentration (Samatha) and insight (Vipassana). Samatha practice is simply about focusing on your breathing, in order to develop concentration and calmness. It’s the best place to start, given how busy and unfocused our minds typically are. Vipassana is so simple it almost sounds like doing nothing at all – it’s about being very aware and present to your immediate experience, noticing your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the sounds and sights around you.

To learn how to get started, read the Introduction to Insight Meditation by the monks at Amaravati monastery. I also recommend Steve Hagen’s book Meditation – Now or Never.

How About You?

How do you maintain your mental clarity and focus in the midst of the pressures of daily life? Have you ever tried meditation? Did you notice any effect on your creativity?


Mark McGuinness is currently helping readers of the Lateral Action blog to break through their creative blocks. For bite-sized inspiration follow Mark on Twitter.

* Research from the book “Funky Business.”

More insights on: Disconnecting, Energy / Fatigue, Focus

Mark McGuinness

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Mark McGuinness is a poet and creative coach. He is the author of Resilience: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success, and the free course for creative professionals, The Creative Pathfinder.
load comments (66)
  • MarinaJ

    Meditation is the most powerful thing that I can do to increase the quality
    of my work. It’s free, doesn’t take long and isn’t that hard after a
    bit of practice. The key moment for me was understanding that the
    random thoughts, distractions etc are all part of the practice, not to
    be shut out.
    Women’s Yoga Clothing

  • Jkeen

    I have downloaded free meditation and hypnotism exercises and bought some as well. I listen to them every morning and they help me to think creatively.

  • gaurab sharma

    meditation is one of the best exercise and what ever you say to have a best life.without meditation we cannot think annythning so we should do meditation 15 to 25 minutes per day so you can recharge your body without paying anything to anybody…

  • herbalincense

    Meditation is the best way to heal depression. It is the way to train and develop your mind to become more stable, adhere to the goodness and have a better quality of mind. When we meditate deeply our brain produces a fountain of pleasurable chemicals which make us feel blissful and exquisitely happy.

    All the diseases are basically related to mind. Our mind controls our body and meditation is the best way to control our mind. Meditation as a practice is an effort to stop the mind from its natural tendency to weave thoughts. In the practice of meditation, you try to relax and then try to focus your mind on a divine form, a sacred sound or a word or phrase as mantra, or you focus on your physical body, breath or thoughts.

    Herbal incense can help reduce stress, create a balanced sleep routine, and help you lose weight.

    Meditation with herbal incense has helped me a lot over the past years. The powerful scents of incense can help anyone achieve the state of pseudo zen.

    General Benefits of herbal incense:

    – reduce stress
    – lose weight
    – relaxing
    – help meditation
    – great with yoga
    – used in many religion ceremonies
    – smells great
    – creates a relaxing environment
    – helps with digestion

    Herbal incense is made mostly of Damiana Leaf. Here are more health benefits of Damiana Leaf:

    Antidepressant: Damiana leaf is used to treat mild depression. Because of its stimulant properties, it can help to relieve stress that results in anxiety and depression.

    Sexual Health: Damiana leaf can be used to prevent premature ejaculation and help treat impotence. While damiana has historically been considered primarily helpful for men, women’s sex organs can also benefit from it. Damiana Leaf can be used to treat painful periods and other symptoms of menses.

    Urinary Tract: Damiana leaf can be used to treat problems with the urinary tract. It is a strong antiseptic and diuretic.

    Digestive Health: Damiana leaf can be used as a laxative. It has a mild effect on the intestine and improves the function of the bowel muscles.
     

  • shammer53

    We can do meditation in lots of ways.

    http://scientistartist.blogspo

  • Vijaysingh Singh338

    it is good habbit to recharge yourself and restore your energy in body and concentrate your mind 

  • Andy Hay

    I completely agree. I recently began getting up 1 hour earlier to read and meditate. This has had an enormous impact on my day. I feel that my mornings are much more productive, I am thinking clearer, a my creativity level has increased. Great habit and I think meditation is as important as physical activity

  • דוד כוכב

    I am having amazing changes in my creativity since started meditating 9 years ago.  I can feel it in my guitar playing the most.

  • Shawn Radcliffe

    I have been doing meditation and yoga (which, unlike popular beliefs, actually involves meditation) for a long time. In addition to helping me remain calm throughout my day, I see the world more clearly now. This is especially useful for writing, because when I observe what’s happening in the world, I’m not distracted by my own thoughts and misconceptions (as much).

  • inspirational_books89

    hi,, thanks for sharing this information. this is more useful and knowledgeable for the users,, I would like to share

    this information to my friends.

  • SarahLouiseStevenson

    Hi! It could be great to know the source for the image :) Thank you.

  • Simphiwe

    Thank you lots

  • Judy Martin

    Nice article. The proof is truly in the hormones and the physiological response to meditation. The breath is the elixir of life and creativity. As it seeps in through the nostrils it stimulates the brain releasing hormones that truly allow for a calmer state and more creativity to emerge. Sometimes the science behind the practice is a great way to introduce others to the positive impact of meditation. Thanks for sharing!

  • jw

    Thank you for this very helpful reflection.
    I am a writer with several books published and thousands of articles as a journalist, and yet still struggle daily with a whole bundle of issues related to the creative and expressive process (not the least of which is wondering that I might be deluding myself about being a creative writerly person at all, especially when staring at the piles of unfinished manuscript).
    Personally I have found both forms of meditation to be helpful for spurring creativity and I would like to share what I have learned, and perhaps learn from others who also struggle with accessing the latent creativity of the human mind. The most impressive thing when meditating, at least for me, is how the mind constantly pours forth thought, even when we attempt to still it to a clear and glassy surface to peer deeper within. It is the nature of mind to create; the challenge is to CAPTURE thought for creative purpose.
    Just as with the sense of presence and awareness in life, meditation provides presence and awareness in the imagination. My study into the science of meditation suggests that the mental arousal is greatly slowed with practice, above that of trance-like deep yoga meditation, and below that of ordinary waking thought. Creativity actually involves much higher levels of mental arousal, above that of waking thought and just below the anxiety state of hyperarousal. Any creative person knows anxiety. For more on this topic I suggest James Austin MD’s book Zen and the Brain, from MIT press…very enlightening material from a neurologist and zen practitioner.
    The regular practice of meditation transforms thought over time: fewer unwelcome self-referential thoughts “intrude” (i.e. “am I just fooling myself into thinking I can write this?”). When they do, we see them and can hold them at arm’s length almost until they vaporize. And then we are left again, simply being in the creative action itself, no matter what form it may take. I think we all know what that feels like, when you are vividly “on” in a creative way, either on canvas, or the page, or in music or whatever. Meditation helps us to identify and gently shift into that state.
    Another thing that happens is that our mind from childhood naturally begins to supress the creative impulse in order to survive. We learn from experience of failed creative efforts (i.e. touching a hot stove) and that shapes our thought in such a way that we begin to block the natural impulses of thought and insight, and sift them through reason and intellect, which are different brain functions. By meditating over time, it removes some of those blockages in the brain whereby the creative impulse is diffused throughout much more of our conscious waking experience. For me, when writing, this is almost like being in a dream-like state: fully awake and aware, but also very much lost in the flowering of insight and creative vision.
    The habit of meditation helps reduce the anxiety we can experience easily in the raw, vulnerable, and really childlike state of mind that is creativity, so that we can take ourselves down a notch, when needed. This allows the insight to come into conscious thought without totally sweeping us away into frenetic and fruitless mental activity.
    If there is any merit from these ideas I dedicate it to all persons everywhere who find joy in creativity.

  • anthonysparker401

    I once had a spiritual consultant and he just said the same things. We need loads of creativity even if naturally don’t have it to rejuvenate ourselves.

  • Marvin

    Great article!

    Please visit our little meditation charity page and help out in any way possible, even spreading the word will be much appreciated. Many thanks

    Goto: http://www.indiegogo.com/savecis

    Thanks

  • sonia chulani

    Beautiful – love the way you explain the whole concept of meditation. Have been looking up meditation on google and wish to recommend the following article which i think you will like:www.artoflivingsecrets.co…

  • מדיטציה

    it can clear awareness health and spirit

  • vanessa p

    For me creativity is definately a letting go of self. I am far too judgmental of myself to be creative when sitting outside myself and watching critically. I need to be still and trust my creativity to that open place, that it will arise and it will be OK.

    http://www.meditationguide.inf

  • Tim H.

    “8 minute Meditation” by Victor Davitch is a great secular

  • Michigan Buddhist

    My daily routine would be a mess without meditation. In the morning it helps me prepare for the day and in the evening it helps me to wind down and evaluate everything. I also keep little meditation mementos in helpful places (bathroom, car, office, etc…) to remind me to take a breath and be mindful. Great article, Mark!

    http://www.singingbowlzen.com is a great place to find those little reminders too!

  • najat sareini

    after practice its built in now

  • Naveen Arden

    You start benefiting from meditation from the moment you begin. You might not experience immediate peace or joy, but your body will get a chance to rest, release stored stress, and heal.

    Naveen
    http://www.anamayaresort.com

  • Brian

    Meditation is a great practice to have and yes, I agree that it has a wonderful effect on creativity. I practice this mindfulness meditation technique on and off throughout the day. But when I get enough time I try to practice Kundalini it makes me feel even more balanced and ready to be creative.

  • http://www.nijarco.com Jorawar Singh

    NIce guide to Meditation ! Our real home is inside and we can find it with true meditation. The most important thing in meditation is LOVE and HUMILITY. That helps a lot in advancing towards GOD.
    -NIJARCO
    http://www.nijarco.com/how-to-do-meditation-nijarco/

  • Guest

    This was very refreshing to hear, as I can certainly relate as a professional illustrator who meditates. I’m so glad other people are starting to see the many benefits of sitting quietly, and how it is a practical tool that can help improve all aspects of our lives….its not just some trendy airy fairy thing for new-agers. I just wrote an article myself on meditation for artists (or any profession) and am going to be adding a link to this great article. Thanks for writing this Mark!

    And if anyone’s interested, check out my post here: http://www.jessicawarrick.com/blog/2015/1/25/creativity-meditation-and-earl

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