The Easy Way to MeditateShare
Research says mindfulness meditation can unlock our most creative ideas -- if sitting still and quiet doesn't stress you out in the first place.
My meditation sessions are sporadic these days and sometimes interrupted by the squeal of kids on the Slip N Slide outside the window of my meditation room-slash-office.
I might get five minutes to sit in quiet and watch my thoughts go skittering through like skeeters on a pond. Other times I’ll take twenty-five. But, no matter how long I spend, meditation is always a difference maker.
Even after just a few minutes, I feel myself settle in to a more relaxed and curious state – one without the rigid, routine, rational thinking that sometimes takes over my days.
My thoughts are more abstract after meditation, I’m more open, engaged, and aware – probably because I’m less stressed and reactive. All this is good for creativity.
Researchers from the University of Amsterdam recently drew a link between mindfulness and creativity. In their study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, they found that those with strong observation skills, which can be cultivated through a mindfulness practice, also demonstrated greater originality and flexible thinking.
In another study, researchers at the Institute for Psychological Research and the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition in the Netherlands found that the focused attention developed during mindfulness and the meditative practice of observing thoughts without judgment leads to more, creative ideas.
It isn’t the non-judgmental awareness that makes the biggest difference, though, according to the University of Amsterdam researchers, but how you look at the world.
Mindfulness meditation, say researchers reduces “cognitive rigidity” and helps us identify and develop innovative ideas. And, it eases stress in a big way which generally makes people more open and curious anyhow.
Meditation Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
Yet the word meditation itself also has a unique power to freak people out. For some, the thought of sitting still and quiet in a room without even the ping of a Smartphone is enough to ratchet up the stress level and suppress any creative thought other than how to benefit from meditation without actually meditating.
I think it’s because we make too much of it. The first few months I meditated I either hyperventilated, while paying attention to my breath, or obsessed as to whether I was meditating correctly.
I also mentally thumbed through my day planner thinking of the stuff I should have been doing. But eventually, I realized meditation actually made me more productive and less of a worry wart.
And, like the studies suggest, I’ve rarely meditated without having some grand idea or solution emerge after the fact.
We have so much background noise in our daily routine that it’s nearly impossible to notice the new and innovative ideas we have in the first place. Mindful meditation can help us notice the spaces in between the racket and that’s where creativity resides.
So, stop making the excuses. Unleash your creative energy through mindfulness meditation.
The Easy Way to Meditate
Here’s how to do it:
Sit still longer.
There you go. That’s the crux of it. Of course, when, you’re ready you can go deeper. You can study different techniques and styles, mantras, and sound meditation. Whatever. It’s all good. But you can meditate right now, without any rules or training.
These specifics can help when you’re ready to start:
1. Get comfortable. Sit on a chair, lay down, if you feel like it. I like to sit on a firm, but comfortable surface, with shoes off, feet on the floor, back straight so I can easily and comfortably take deep breaths and stay alert.
2. Close your eyes. Some do meditate with their eyes open or while looking at a picture of Buddha, or some other image. In the beginning, though, I think it works better to close your eyes and focus on the space there behind your eyelids.
3. Breathe deep from your diaphragm. Take slow breaths. Feel your stomach moving rhythmically, in and out.
4. Focus on something. Many people focus on their breath. Others use a simple mantra like Ohm. The minute you begin meditating your thoughts will begin jerking you in all directions as though you’re holding the leashes of a dozen dogs. A single focus helps bring you back.
5. Notice your thoughts. When you catch a renegade thought coming through, and they will roughly a billion times a session, bless it and imagine a gentle breath blowing it away. Then return to your focus. Don’t judge, pound, exclaim or stop meditating to write a note on your To-Do list. Don’t beat yourself up for not doing it right. Just observe your thoughts and let them go. Do it over, and over, and over.
In the beginning, I also think it helps to set a timer. This keeps you from focusing on the clock or wondering how much longer you have to go. Pick a time span, set the timer, and get started.
If you discover your mind feels more like a pinball machine than the placid surface of a quiet lake; if you feel bombarded by thoughts rolling through, well then, Congratulations! You are meditating.
If, you find yourself seeking peace and creativity and instead catch yourself thinking about your newest hair style or a big work project, then you are also right on track.
Meditation can be all of this. But, with time and practice, peace, clarity and creativity will prevail.
Polly Campbell writes and speaks about practical personal development. She is the author of two books, Imperfect Spirituality: Extraordinary Enlightenment for Ordinary People and How to Reach Enlightenment, and she is a sought-after motivational speaker. Follow Polly on Twitter.