The mind, meditation and creativity

by Deborah Quibell, 12-Feb-2016

Every creative knows that our most valuable resource is not our mac, our Leica camera, new oil paints, or the latest high-tech software. It is our mind.

Creativity erupts from ideas. And ideas erupt from the mind.

But what is the mind, really?

The mind is officially defined as “the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.”

Some traditions distinguish between two aspects of the mind. The first is the appearance of the mind, which is the activity—our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. The second is the essence of the mind—the aspect which produces the thoughts and emotions, but is not the thoughts and emotions, themselves.

In other words, the thoughts and emotions are like the rays of the sun—they come from the sun, but they are not the sun, itself.

The neuroscience of creativity suggests that when the mind is either ‘busy’ with emotions and stress (regulated by the limbic brain) or dealing with adrenaline ‘flight or fight’ reactivity (regulated by the reptilian brain), it will not allocate resources to the neocortex—the part of the brain responsible for the complex mental activity that we associate with being human, including our creative processes.

Translation: When we are stuck in emotional turmoil or reacting to the stress of modern life, it is much more difficult to access the deeper aspect of the mind, which inspires our creativity.
Draw the curtains. Enter meditation.

Firstly, meditation helps us develop certain capacities that are necessary in the creative process, such as focus, patience, clarity, insight, and perspective. It allows us to observe and detach from our thoughts and emotions, creating a steadiness of mind necessary for creative work.

Studies have shown that meditation improves “divergent thinking”—a type of thinking that allows new and creative ideas to be generated1and reduces “cognitive rigidity” (via the tendency to be ‘blinded’ by past experience).2

Additionally, during the practice of meditation, we are able to more consciously experience the true nature of the mind. When we contact this field or deeper level of consciousness, we have access to a different way of thinking and being, that is not limited by logical and mental processes. In this state of mind, many creatives claim to access amazing ideas and insights, and find themselves immensely connected, inspired and alive.

 “Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.” -David Lynch

1 Colzato, L., Ozturk, A. & Hommel, B. (2012). Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking. Front. Psychology. 3, 116.

2 Greenberg, J., Reiner, K. & Meiran, N. (2012). “Mind the Trap”: Mindfulness Practice Reduces Cognitive Rigidity. 7, 5

About Deborah Quibell

Often called a wandering seeker, Deborah came into yoga after immersing herself for years in the study of prana and the subtle body (with the founder of Pranic Healing). She is trained at the 500-hour level, and founded her own studio in Atlanta, GA in 2011, which she sold upon relocating to Europe.