The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.” ~Robert M. Pirsig
One night during a period of creative malaise, I dreamed the late, much-missed George Harrison came and sat on my bed to talk to me.
I told him that I had been having problems getting the words to flow. I knew my characters, my plots, I knew what I wanted to say but for some reason my words felt leaden.
George had the answer.
“You need to relax, love,” he said. “Try some meditation. It always helped me.”
“Really?” I said. “I’m not really into all that New Age-y sort of stuff. And I don’t know how to meditate.”
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll teach you.”
Well, I would never ignore gorgeous George when he was alive, so I certainly wasn’t about to turn a deaf ear to him just because he’s dead. Especially when he made a special trip just to come see me. So the next day, feeling completely daft, I decided to give it a go.
Now, with all respect to George, I found I needed to do a little research on my own. Meditation, it turns out, isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. It comes in plain (straightforward, with or without ohming), guided, and binaural.
If you decide to give it a go in order to boost your creativity, then you might want to check out the different approaches and see which one works best for you.
Here’s my completely unscientific guide. If you’re serious about meditation—and some people are. Extremely so—then you should do a much more in-depth study than the lazy bits of info I’m offering here.
You should also keep in mind that meditation offers far more benefits than creative stimulation. It helps to focus the mind, improves pain-management and lowers stress.
Here’s a brief overview of the most common types of meditation. I’d suggest you try each one for at least ten minutes and decide which works best for you. Gradually increase your time as you become more comfortable with the practice.
Insightful Meditation (or Vipassana)
This is focusing on the object of meditation: your own breath or sounds from outside.
Sit in a comfortable position. Avoid lying down or you’re apt to fall asleep.
Listen to the sound of your breathing. You don’t need to breathe in any different way than usual.
When your mind starts to wander—and it will—just gently bring your focus back to your breathing.
A variation on this type of meditation is to focus on the stillness between breaths, rather than the breath itself. I prefer to do this type of meditation in silence but natural sounds, running water or wind chimes can be helpful too.
Pick a word “Relax”, “Create”, “Peace”, or a phrase such as “I am”, or “I am one with the universe”. I’ve heard some suggest the phrase, “I am a writer” but frankly that gives me the giggles. Not to mention an immediate response of “Then you should be writing,” but it may work for you.
Find a comfortable and relaxed position. Give yourself a minute to get into a meditation mind set, and then start to repeat the mantra to yourself. You don’t need to say it aloud. The theory is the mantra keeps the mind focused.
I quite like this one. You picture a relaxing environment and picture yourself there. Try to engage as many of the senses as possible. Imagine how your scene looks, sounds, smells.
There are a lot of relaxing videos available that can help you enhance this experience. Sounds of the ocean or rainfall, a wood fire cracking, birdsong. Pick something that you can connect with.
You can also use this to visualise success in a specific endeavour. Imagine what it feels like to finish your novel or play, to receive a publication offer, or whatever else may come to mind. As with an environmental visualisation, this should be as specific as possible. Fill in every detail and repeat the image regularly.
If you’re a complete novice, you may prefer to start with a guided meditation. These are, as the name suggests, sessions that are led by someone who helps you focus. You can find a lot of these on the net, some of them are excellent, others… less so.
It’s a matter of taste, but if I find the voice of the leader annoying, nasal, too earnest, or whatever, I can’t concentrate on anything else. Still, if you can find one you like, it can be a great way to get started. This one is specifically for creatives: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPrk4_JFA90
This is where ancient wisdom meets science. I must say, this is my favourite sort of meditation and the one I find most helpful.
Here’s the theory: the word ‘binaural’ means having two ears. Through the headphones you listen to sound at a slightly different frequency at the same time. The brain recognises the tone that is the difference of the two. If you have 210 Hz pulsing in one ear and 200 into the other, the brain processes the two sounds into a 10Hz frequency which stimulates Alpha waves. Studies have shown exposure to such stimulation can improve performance, mood and creativity.
When you listen to the track you focus on the music and that helps you settle into a relaxed state. I usually include a creative visualisation component. Depending on what I’m trying to accomplish, I will either visualise myself climbing up a flight of stairs in a tower. At the top are ideas and thoughts that are pure creative energy. Alternatively, I imagine descending the stairs to an underground river. This contains creative emotion and memory. See what works for you.
You have to use headphones for this sort of meditation to work. At first, I found them distracting, but I stuck with it and now hardly notice them. There are a number of binaural meditation tracks available on-line.
Here’s one of my favourite binaural tracks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kw9d7ws4K9M It’s less than ten minutes long and the change in music at the end always makes me smile.
This one is half-an-hour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ea2eDyM3RE
Give it a try, you may find it as helpful as I do.