by Ronald A. Alexander, PhD, author of “Core Creativity: The Mindful Way to Unlock Your Creative Self“
Creativity is about journeying into the dark and mysterious forest of the unknown. It’s not necessarily about participating in the arts, although it can be. It’s about opening the door to your core creativity and to open-mind awareness to help you achieve your goals, break through a creative block or make a life change. You can stop yearning for the big chance to find a sense of purpose and start experiencing your creativity today, regardless of the mundane items on your agenda.
One of the most effective ways to become creatively toned and start accessing core creativity is through a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness allows you to listen and pay attention to what you might otherwise overlook — whether it’s a fresh idea or a new way of perceiving a situation. With mindfulness, you enhance your creativity and let go of any obstacles to innovation.
“Open monitoring meditation,” a form of mindfulness meditation, involves remaining focused and mindful, however, instead of sustaining your attention on one thing (your breath or a mantra), you sustain it on what you’re experiencing in the present moment while breathing naturally. By relaxing into sensations, emotions, memories, and thoughts as they arise, you broaden your focus and access your witness state. In it, you tap into the creativity that comes from deep within.
Here are four techniques to help you ignite your creativity.
1. Work mindfully with dreams.
If you feel that you simply have no creative abilities, consider your dreams. Most nights your mind generates at least a few fantastical images that you can recall upon waking if you awake with the intent of remembering your dreams. I often ask my clients to work with the images of their dreams by writing about them and exploring them to see what ideas and insights they have to offer.
Keep a notebook or tape recorder by the bed, and when you first become aware of your dream, record as much detail as possible of whatever fragments, images, feelings, or emotions you can recall. Enter a state of quiet, mindful reflection and let the dream replay itself in your consciousness. Note that each symbol in the dream represents some aspect of yourself, so after recalling the dream, think about how each one reveals something about you.
2. Mood management.
Depression is a loop of unwholesome thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that feed upon themselves, spiraling the sufferer away from an experience of hope, enthusiasm, or curiosity. It chokes off the pipeline to the creative core. If you want to open up to a sense that tomorrow will bring new situations, new people, and new ideas, then eliminating harmful moods is very important.
Mindfulness meditation, a yoga practice, and regular exercise are all excellent for mood regulation. They lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your bloodstream, increase your interleukin levels (enhancing your immune system and providing you with greater energy), and streamline your body’s ability to cleanse itself of chemical toxins, such as lactic acid in your muscles and bloodstream, which can affect neurotransmitter receptors and alter your mood.
3. Become quiet and do nothing.
You don’t have to “try” to be creative when you access core creativity. You don’t have to “think through” what to do next, because a sense of possibility and wonder will simply come to you, followed by ideas that flow into you. By quieting your thoughts, you allow your unconscious mind to open up. Ideas will start bubbling to the surface of your awareness, often in the form of images or of a sense of deep, inner knowing.
A world-class drummer once took me inside his music room. Slowly moving his hand across the drum kit, he said, “Sometimes I sit here for hours in the silence and quietly wait for the drums to tell me what to write and play.” His ability to patiently wait and remain in an open, listening state was a key element in his ability to create amazing music.
4. Persevere and trust in the creative process.
Although artists are often considered flighty or undisciplined, the most successful ones that I know are extremely disciplined. They may spend a workday seemingly doing nothing, but in fact they’re consciously choosing to remain in a state of openness. They may pick up a guitar and start playing anything, or sit at a computer and start typing whatever comes to mind, in order to start their creative flow. When nothing comes, they aren’t afraid to shift gears — to take a walk, or break from the way they’ve chosen to connect to their creativity by trying something entirely different.
The reason they’re able to persevere isn’t because they have a particular temperament, but because they’ve experienced breakthroughs again and again. They know that they can rely on two distinct channels to glide into that space where we all access our core creativity: honing their craft, a left-brain activity that tones us creatively over time; and persevering and trusting in their ability to access creative transformation.
When you trust in the creative process, instead of merely dipping your toe in the water and playing it safe, you’re willing to be utterly daring. Knowing this, you can navigate through a sea of self-limiting thoughts. Being more mindfully present lets you see with new eyes and hear with new ears.
Ronald A. Alexander, PhD, is author of “Core Creativity: The Mindful Way to Unlock Your Creative Self“. He’s the executive director of the OpenMind® Training Program that offers personal and professional training programs in mindfulness-based therapies, transformational leadership and meditation. He is also author of “Wise Mind, Open Mind: Finding Purpose and Meaning in Times of Crisis, Loss, and Change“.