7 Ways Meditation Increases Creativity


Flickr / Mark Chadwick

Flickr / Mark Chadwick

Today’s guest post is from Orna Ross, a bestselling Irish author.

Our creative intelligence is not accessed by effort in the conventional sense that you learned at school or work. We cannot try or strive or strain for it, any more than we can strive to have fingers or feet. It’s more about dissolving the internal barriers that come between us and our innate creative potential, so we can align with it and allow it to flow more freely.

Meditation is a doorway between our inner and outer worlds. Between “reality” (the seemingly solid world that we can see, hear, smell, taste and touch) and an elusive “something else” we sense beneath, between and beyond what those five senses can grasp.

Meditation offers enormous benefits for everyone, and a set of particular benefits for those who are engaged in a creative activity like writing.

1. Creates Conditions for Insight

Insight, perception, revelation: these are the qualities that mark out the good writer from the mediocre, the great writer from the good. Meditation creates the mental and emotional conditions in which they are most likely to flourish. For centuries, it was thought that such qualities were the innate gifts of a special elite—born not made. Now brain mapping shows them to be available to all who meditate.

2. Eases Artistic Anxiety

It’s not easy putting yourself out there, day after day, in words. It makes us a little crazy—vulnerable, edgy, raw sometimes. Meditation soothes those edges and creates a place of safety from where we can take risks.

Brain scans show that meditation reduces activity in the amygdala, where the brain processes fear. It allows us to become, as Flaubert suggested we should, steady and well-ordered in our life so we can be fierce and original in our work.

3. Claims the Essential Self

“Be yourself,” Oscar Wilde once said. “Everyone else is taken.” But it’s not always easy, especially if you’re trying to do it in words.

By consciously quieting the chatter of our surface mind, we claim our authentic and essential self—the indefinable essence that makes us unique, different from everyone else whoever lived. And as we claim this self more fully, we become more open to expressing it.

4. Connects Us to Creative, Imaginative, Artistic Space

The human mind operates at three levels: Surface (Intellectual/Ego) Mind, Deep (Emotional/Intuitive) Mind, and Beyond (Imaginative/Inspirational) Mind. Meditation has benefits with regard to all three, most particularly in how it allows us to tap the deeper, wiser dimensions of our minds, which tend to speak in whispers.

Neuroscience is showing, through brain mapping, how meditation affects brain wave activity. The most striking difference is a shift, in the meditator, from the stress-prone right frontal cortex to the calmer left frontal cortex. Regular meditation also shows increased brain activity in areas associated with the creative and the mystical.

This is the shift that Albert Einstein described as “the most beautiful emotion we can experience … the [underlying] power of all true art and science.” What it means for the writer is experiencing more ideas, insights and connections.

5. Quiets the Critics and Enjoys the Ride

Meditation makes us very much less vulnerable to critics, and to the pressures and persuasions of others. It also muzzles the meanest critic of ‘em all: the great fault-finder within. By freeing us from the surface chatter of our everyday mind and the sticky grasp of emotion, meditation allows us to observe ourselves and others more clearly.

Because it awakens us to the present moment, meditation allows us to see, and appreciate, what we are making as we do it—to enjoy process as much as product.

6. Improves Attention and Concentration

Essentially, meditation is focus. Practicing it daily helps us to have it and to be able to draw on it when needed—an essential when negotiating the distracted and distracting online world.

Writing is a never-ending game. As soon as we finish one post, we’re thinking of the next. Regular meditation develops our ability to appreciate what we’re achieving and getting right, as well as what still has to be done. To enjoy what we are making in the moment of its making. To value process as much as product.

7. Fosters Flow

For writers, flow is that delectable condition where words seem to appear of their own volition, where all we have to do is turn up and take dictation. Analyzed in depth by creativity theorist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and others, flow has been found to induce similar brain states as meditation.

Final Note

Writers regularly cite one problem with meditation: they don’t have time. For all the reasons outlined above, it’s clear that for writers, meditation doesn’t take time, it makes time.

What’s your experience? Have you ever meditated? What effect did it have on your writing? Would you like to try? What’s stopping you?

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  • Lynne Spreen

    I have begun meditating every day for 20 mins, due to inspiration received from a book about how to live in the moment, diminish stress. The writer, a doctor, was battling cancer as he wrote it. That, plus your post, are gifts of the new year. Thanks and happy 2012. (The book is reviewed here if you’re interested: 

  • http://twitter.com/malenalott Malena Lott

    I began meditating in 2011 and found it not only increased my creativity, but helped me make better decisions in all aspects of my life and deal with stress. I highly recommend it!

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  • http://liakeyes.com/ Lia Keyes

    T’ai Chi has a similar effect for me. 

  • http://chaosmos-outofchaoscomesorder.blogspot.com/ Vanessa Harbour

    What a wonderful post this and so inspiring. Time to start meditating methinks

  • http://thousandshadesofgray.wordpress.com/ Jill Salahub

    I’ve had an ongoing meditation practice for the past four years. I find that it is of great benefit to my sanity, and helps me to remember (as a person who spends so much time in my head) that I have a body. It brings me back to earth, and helps me cope with the strong emotions that arise from my writing practice, the intense experience that writing can be. Meditation helps me to keep my heart wide open, to be brave and wise–all essential to my writing.

  • http://www.amandamctigue.com/ Amanda

    Brava, Orna. This is, indeed, “how” I write when I write well. Meditation (as sloppy and personal as it is for me) always leads to my better work, my most surprising work. In spite of that, I have to overcome the chatter of resistance (I’m too busy) to “use” this wonderful way of opening the faucet for whatever might come through. Thank you and happy new year. 

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  • Hamida Mulbocus

    Meditation is the window through which stagnant air is pumped away, allowing pure and fresh air to flow in.

    I did regular meditation (after following a professional course) a few years back. My whole perception changed. The world was the same but I had changed for the better!

    After reading this informative post, I feel charged to go on a meditative spree again to clear away cobwebs, and get blessed with inspiration !

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  • J. R. Nova

    This is brilliant. Thanks!

  • Paul Dillon

    I want to start but don’t know how

  • http://nicolealexanderauthor.com/ Nicole Alexander

    Meditation is key for me to keep my creativity flowing. Not only does it make me a saner, more spiritually balanced person (especially in dealing with a day job in addition to writing at night and on weekends), but also I find it is the easiest way to solve writing problems I may be having. I’ve seen entire scenes in my head, heard dialogue and even outlined a whole section of a book, thanks to insights gleaned while in meditation. Call it access to the higher self or just clarity of thinking, but know my life wouldn’t be the same without it.

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    This is one of the best beginner guides I know of: MINDFULNESS


  • http://www.100memoirs.wordpress.com shirleyhs

    I found this post on Jane Friedman’s FB page. Love it! Today I finished Chapter Five of my memoir, which had been slow-going for days. I spent 30 minutes in inspirational reading, 20 minutes in meditation, 10 minutes journaling. Then ten longhand pages just flowed out of me. Coincidence? I think not.

  • Ann Reid

    A rather forward-looking priest and guidance counselor at my high school encouraged all the students in our working-class mill-town high school to take TM. He even had trainers come in and students were encouraged to sign up and take the course which was offered after school. I began meditating in 1974 and continued on and off at times since then. Recently, however, after being seriously ill for nearly a year I had a very difficult time concentrating or writing at all. I remembered TM and the benefits it gave me in earlier years and I began meditating again as if my creative life depended on it. Without a doubt it has smoothed out the emotional and self-critical jabbering that has often gotten in the way of my writing, and has helped me to focus with much more intensity in much less time. I knew I couldn’t often manage the 2, 20 min. sessions suggested, so I get up at 5 am and meditate for 40 minutes before the rest of the world wakes up and I feel so much better, calmer, more even-tempered as well as much more productive. Meditating works for me!

  • http://www.VisionsByVeronica.com/ Veronica Schultz

    I’m really glad you posted this. I started meditating each evening to help with my insomnia and ADD. My ADD medication was costing quite a bit of money every month, and new health regulations required me to go to a doctor appointment every three months…so I stopped taking it. The meditation is not 100% as effective, but it helps enough that I’ve been okay (though maybe a bit annoying) without the medication. I had never really thought about the effects meditation would have in anything else I do, but it’s nice to know that it could help my writing.  Thank you for the information.

  • Jodi Lobozzo Aman

    I write about meditation often, it alway surprises me when people are new to it!  I love introducing it to them!  www.healnowandforever.net

  • Adair Heitmann

    Wonderful, inspiring, true! Thank you. P.S. I’ve been meditating since 1972 and write about meditation in the real world in my blog http://www.creativityandwellness.wordpress.com

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  • Ntathu

    Beautiful post and yes meditation helps me remains calm and focused and writing to flow.

  • http://www.storyscavenger.com/ Wendy Ann Greenhalgh

    Thanks for this, Orna. I’ve been meditating for 15 years and writing even longer, and I’m fully convinced of the benefits to creativity and well being. I now teach and blog about art, creative writing and meditation e.g. http://storyscavenger.blogspot.com/2011/10/meditation-writing-and-creative-mind.html – so good to hear of others following the same path :)

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  • Diana Douglas

    It’s so easy to let external thoughts & events direct our mind. I find meditation very challenging, but I want it to be a part of my daily life so I’ve been setting aside a little time everyday to try and quiet my mind.
    Thank you for such an enlightening post.

  • http://www.rajilukkoor.com/ Raji Lukkoor

    Fantastic article, Orna. Thanks for writing and sharing. My experience with mindfulness meditation was so compelling that I wrote a book about it. “Inner Pilgrimage: Ten Days to a Mindful Me.” If you’re interested, it’s at http://www.rajilukkoor.com.

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  • Orna Ross

    Inspiration Meditation will also tell you what you need to know to get started. The kindle version is here: http://www.amazon.com/Inspiration-Meditation-ebook/dp/B005971A5I. Or you can get a PDF on my website. Do start, you won’t regret it!

  • http://twitter.com/OrnaRoss Orna Ross

    I think not too!  Thanks for sharing this. :)

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  • http://twitter.com/branain Branáin S. Radcliffe

    I would add #8: Clarity. Meditation strips away the layers that block you from seeing the world clearly. If you are an artist, the world is your source of ideas (ultimately), so being able to access it more clearly is crucial. Meditation connects you into the world without dirt on your sensory plugs.

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  • Jen Jones

    I like all these ideas, but “how” does one begin meditating?

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  • Kevin B. Saunders

    Ki meditation taught to me by my Aikido sensei for five minutes before writing is like warming up before practicing Aikido techniques more in a positive way.

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