My Experience with Meditation

Meditation is the new black. In particular, using meditation to help unlock your creativity is getting a lot of hype at the minute. David Lynch has been a huge proponent of Transcendental Meditation ™, even starting a foundation to give more people access to what is a costly style of meditation. But he’s not alone, famous creative meditators include: the Beach Boys, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Steve Vai, Tom Petty, John Denver, Sheryl Crow, Katy Perry, the co-founders of Def Jam Recordings, Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Clint Eastwood, and lest us not forget Oprah.

Meditation is also something I’ve heard a lot about on some of my favourite creative podcasts, for example Tiffany Han’s Raise Your Hand Say Yes with Lacy Young. Everyone seems to be talking about the power of meditation and it’s no surprise because supposedly it can help:

“You become more you – you get more ideas and more energy to fulfil them […] It’s fuel for the artist, you grow faster between films or paintings. It speeds things up. You start making the subconscious conscious; meditators have an edge over artists that don’t meditate.”*

As someone who’s always trying to be more creative, and also, in the least Eat Pray Love way possible, find myself, that sounded pretty attractive. So, I’ve been trying out a few different kinds of meditation (unfortunately not TM) over the last few months (so I’m by no means an expert) and these have been my experiences and take-aways.

HEADSPACE

Headspace is (I think) the biggest mediation app available right now, “We all need to get a little head space” – it’s a catchphrase that has become ingrained into the psyches of more than 6 million people worldwide. The app, led by Andy, leads you through easy to follow guided meditations and mindfulness training. The meditation sessions on Headspace are divided up into levels, and you can try the first level of ten sessions for free, which I would highly recommend you do if you’re interested in trying meditation but aren’t sure where to start. I definitely enjoyed working my way through different levels of headspace, and it gave me a lot of food for thought. The little explanation videos at the beginning of the sessions were really helpful in giving me some perspective on meditation and also just generally being more mindful. If you’re someone who gets a lot out of gamification, you’ll love headspace. The app is really good at reminding you to take ten and encouraging sustained mediation, and was a great starter for me personally. But it’s not something I’ve stuck with for that reason. After really trying to get on with Headspace, I decided that it’s not something I want to use every day. I’m not a big fan of everyday tasks turned into games (for some reason it irks me) and the guided meditations began to feel a bit redundant after I’d tried Zazen. However, I’ve kept the app on my phone so I can dip in and out of their specific meditations like commuting and sport. 

ZAZEN

Zazen is what you probably imagine when someone says mediation to you. It’s sitting quietly, quiet often cross-legged, breathing and thinking. This self-guided meditation focuses on your breathing and getting in touch with your body in many of the same ways as the Headspace guided meditations but without anything else in the way. I normally follow something a little like this method, and I like to have some rain sounds (there are loads on spotify) in the background, in part because my house is never really all that quiet. I know that some people might find this a little boring, or hard to get into, but this is the kind of meditation that I have gotten the most out of. Not only has it helped me feel calm and at peace in the way that a warm bath does, I’ve also had a number of almost magical experiences while doing it. When I’m practising zazen, I feel both hyper aware of my body and somehow external to it, I don’t quite know how to describe it. Has practising this kind of meditation helped my creativity? I’m not sure. It hasn’t in any obvious way but I think being able to enjoy those warm moments of calm has helped me feel more content in myself, which I think can’t have done anything but to affect my creativity.

MEDITATIVE PAINTING

I’m including this even though I’m not sure how much it counts as a “meditation” because it’s been something I’ve gotten a lot out in many of the same ways as Zazen. Every day I take some time just to paint. I don’t go in with a plan or an image I just move the colours and forms around wherever they lead me. It’s been a great way for me to visualise whatever I’m feeling as well as starting to gain confidence in painting. This is the meditation that has helped my creativity the most because of that confidence. When making feels as easy as breathing, and can bring you a greater sense of calm, you just end up with so much more trust in yourself and also a better sense of your own internal source of creativity. I realise that sounded quite strange and new-agey but I didn’t have a better way to put it.

Those have been my experiences with meditation and creativity so far. Do I think it’s worth trying if you’re looking to be more creative? Definitely, there’s absolutely nothing to lose and quite a lot to gain, not just a boost in creativity. Do I think it’s worth the hype? I’m not sure just yet, there’s a lot more to meditation than the bits I’ve tried and I’m keen to investigate it further, either through classes or through just more research.

What are your thoughts on meditation? Have you tried it? What has worked for you or what hasn’t? Should I be trying classes?

*I really enjoyed this article from Emily Gosling on It’s Nice That.

 

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8 Comments

  1. March 30, 2017 / 10:18 pm

    I started meditating a few months ago, and although admittedly I haven’t practised any in over a month, I do find it hugely beneficial. I was using the app Stop, Breathe and Think, which I really liked, I started off with the guided meditations as they helped me to stay focused. But after a little while I would just set the timer for a few minutes and try silence. I found if I was having a crappy, overly emotional day, just sitting for a few minutes, and just breathing would really help.

    I don’t think I was practising frequently enough to notice anything creativity wise, but I am defo going to try and bring it back into my routine. It is such a positive habit to have.

    • Natalie
      April 2, 2017 / 11:33 pm

      I’ve definitely been through phases of doing it every day and then not for a week, I think I’m getting closer to a routine that works for me, though. I’m all for just taking those quiet moments alone. You really can feel a difference, you’re right it’s such a positive habit to have

  2. April 2, 2017 / 3:05 pm

    Thanks for sharing Natalie! I had never really thought of meditation as a way to be more creative, but more generally I think it helps well in cutting out a “me moment” in a cahotic day.

    Best,
    Chiara
    http://www.one-o.it

    • Natalie
      April 2, 2017 / 11:31 pm

      100% agree it’s the perfect way to carve out a moment for yourself just to be, which is so so important!

  3. Talitta
    April 6, 2017 / 11:18 pm

    This is such a nice piece, thank you for sharing your experiences! I love the meditative painting idea because it’s something that can help to eliminate your perception of time more effectively than other traditional forms of meditation (if you are a beginner, obviously).
    I have always struggled so much with the whole concept of “stop your mind”, and something that has really helped me with that was the book “The Power of Now”, by Eckhart Tolle. It is actually a super cheesy book and it kinda focuses on the spiritual understanding of the self, the body and the mind. However, there are some powerful statements there, which I found really helpful to absorb for someone who is really engaged in the practice of meditation. I recommend that! All the best to you.

    • Natalie
      April 7, 2017 / 5:44 pm

      I love the painting, I also find it’s much better for me if I’m feeling quite emotional just to get that focus back. That book sounds really interesting and I’ll definitely check it out – thanks so much for the recommendation!

  4. April 7, 2017 / 11:44 pm

    Ooh, meditation. I actually experimented with it at the beginning of the year but didn’t end up sticking to it. I really enjoyed the free Headspace levels and didn’t mind the gamification but didn’t want to have to pay for further lessons so ended up stopping and nothing else I found quite worked for me (I’ve never heard of Zazen).

    I have since moved to yoga though and I feel like it’s with yoga that I really get that sense of calm and oneness that I was wanting from meditation. I still focus on my breathing and the sensations in my body, but I get to move and explore things a bit more, which I think my restless mind prefers.

    That being said, I’ve never actually thought about these activities in relation to creativity, I’ve always focused more on the mental benefits. Maybe they help in a way that they get me used to switching into a place of stillness and calm in my mind that I may not be able to access as easily while creating if not for my practice, but I’m not sure. I feel like I’ll have to start paying attention a bit more to see if there’s a connection there.

    I think the meditative painting is the most fascinating thing for me. Abstract art is really uncomfortable for me as an artist. I feel like I am often 50/50 in my mind set so whereas part of me wants to always create, the other part of me always feels there’s a right and wrong way to do things. As a result, I tend to create things regularly but they’re always things I can see and base off references. Letting completely go of my thoughts and just letting creation happen is a super intimidating thing for me. I’m not sure if I could do it, though I’m sort of curious to try after reading your post.

    Anyways, sorry for the long ramble. Lovely post as always! 🙂

    Asti || bit.ly/atypicalnarrative

    • Natalie
      April 9, 2017 / 10:53 pm

      Thanks so mcuh for sharing your thoughts – it’s so interesting to hear about other people’s experiences. This really makes me want to try yoga, I’ve done it more as a fitness practice on my own but I’d love to go to a class and learn more about it!

      I was (and am) definitely the same way about making things – I’m very conscious and planned in knowing what I want to make. But I love just painting. There is something a bit conscious in choosing a colour and a starting point but then I just follow where the paint takes me. I think I find that easier because I know I’m not going to share the paintings. I have found a bit of a style though, but I think that’s more about just finding a way of painting that I’m familiar enough with that I don’t have to think about it. I would highly recommend it.

      I think the benefits for your creativity are definitely a part of the overall mindfulness benefits. There’s something about just having a sense of calm, and being able to clear your mind that frees you up to find new ideas.

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