Just 20 minutes of meditative practice a day can greatly improve one’s creativity and general mood. It may seem counter-intuitive, when you’re under a deadline and stressed about time, to sit still and do absolutely nothing for 15-20 minutes – but it’s guaranteed to propel your thinking and productivity forward.
But how, exactly, does meditation foster creativity?
First, it stills your mind. A mind cluttered with any thoughts, and especially the negative ones that arise from stress, lacks spaciousness or freedom to come up with new ideas or thoughts. A cluttered mind simply replays the same thoughts over and over. The cluttered mind is basically a playing back a tape in your brain, constantly repeating thoughts about ‘me, mine, myself’ – and it can’t let go unless you teach it to. Second, and perhaps even more important for supporting creativity, is that meditation teaches us to practice kindness toward oneself. A ‘free’ and clear mind reduces the voice of the inner-critic, and a kind attitude allows us to experiment more freely, without the mind-tape tearing apart each new idea before we even write it down.
Many, many musicians, artists and successful creatives have credited meditation with improving their creative success, but perhaps no one has been more vocal than one of the most creative people of our time – the award-winning director David Lynch, who is so convinced of the power of meditation that he has created a non-profit to teach meditation to veterans and disadvantaged children (you can read more about his efforts at the David Lynch Foundation.)
Below is an excerpt from David Lynch on how his daily meditation practice has impacted his creativity:
Ideas are like fish.
If you want to catch a 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.
I look for a certain kind of fish that is important to me, one that can translate to my art. But there are all kinds of fish swimming down there. There are fish for business, fish for sports. There are fish for everything.
Everything, anything that is a thing, comes up from the deepest level. Modern physics calls that level the Unified Field. The more your consciousness—your awareness—is expanded, the deeper you go towards this source, and the bigger the fish you can catch.
I looked into meditation, asked some questions, and started contemplating different forms. At that moment, my sister called and said she had been doing Transcendental Meditation for six months. And I thought, “That’s what I want.”
So in July 1973 I went to the TM center in Los Angeles and met an instructor, and I liked her. She looked like Doris Day. And she taught me this technique. She gave me a mantra, which is a sound-vibration-thought. You don’t meditate on the meaning of it, but it is a very specific sound-vibration-thought.
She took me into a little room to have my first meditation. I sat down, closed my eyes, started this mantra, and it was as if I was in an elevator and the cable had been cut. Boom! I fell into bliss—pure bliss. And I was just in there. Then the teacher said, “It’s time to come out; it’s been twenty minutes.” And I said, “IT’S ALREADY 20 MINUTES!” And she said, “Shhhh!” because other people were meditating. It seemed so familiar, but also so new and powerful. After that, I said the word “unique” should be reserved for this experience.
It takes you to an ocean of pure consciousness, pure knowingness, pure creativity. But it’s familiar, it’s you. And right away a sense of happiness emerges—not a goofball happiness, but a thick beauty.
I have never missed a meditation in 40 years. I meditate once in the morning, and again in the afternoon, for about twenty minutes each time. Then I go about the business of my day. And I find the joy of doing increases. Intuition increases. Creativity increases. The pleasure of life grows. And negativity recedes.
Want to hear what amazing discoveries UCLA researchers made about meditation and improve your practice (or get started?) Read Just Sit Still.