April 14, 2013 / GROWTH IS OXYGEN
April 14, 2013
Living in the moment—something we all wish we did a little more. Aside from being a great way to relish the world around us, living in the moment can fuel creativity. For over the past 30 years Western psychology has been playing catch-up with Eastern spirituality and the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a mental state where people attain a complete sense of openness by focusing on the present by attempting to ignore regrets or hang-ups about the past and not worrying about the future. Harnessed properly it can fuel creativity, reduce stress, raise IQ levels, enable people to appreciate the small things, and act cool under pressure by untangling their thoughts.
How can you put mindfulness in operation? Well, a little history lesson first. Mindfulness was one of the original teachings of the Buddha. It’s considered one of the seven factors of enlightenment. Buddha believed living with mindfulness day to day, culminated to wisdom. Since the ‘80s, the world’s leading medical researchers and scientists have been applying these principals to psychology. It has been adapted from Buddhist meditation practices for treatment of depression and anxiety. By focusing personal experience on the present, worries or anxiety of the past and/or future simply fade away. Senses become more heightened, enabling people to view the world with curiosity and flexibility.
Although meditation can be effective to un-clutter the mind, there are other mindfulness techniques to be used separately to strengthen abilities to access one’s unconscious and be more creative. It can be a simple technique: get into a comfortable space, relax or close the eyes, and concentrate on the “in” breath and then the “out” breath. It’s an exercise that doesn’t allow the mind wander and focuses on the present state of mind.
In my experience as a graphic designer, mindfulness has allowed me to stop and think (or not think), not be overwhelmed by attempts to better my previous work, or focus on the crippling anxiety of creating “the next great thing.” It has allowed me to just enjoy being in the midst of the creative design process.
Modern mindfulness is a mental state where people can cultivate a sense of openness, awareness and focus. In business it can be a great ally in stressful situations as we don’t worry about the future or the past and remain alert and calm. Joshua Aronson, a psychologist at NYU, says, “ Some studies show that people who do mindfulness meditation gain as much as 10 IQ points.” He continues, “It works on the ability to screen out irrelevant information, to clear out the mind of distractions, and to focus intently on relevant stimuli, which frees up resources to solve problems.”
Bringing attention to the present experience through mindfulness frees the mind of mental chatter. When the mind is relaxed and focused on the present you think differently. Thinking on autopilot, or what Buddhists call “Monkey Mind,” is a bad habit one can perpetuate. Through mindfulness we can filter out extraneous information and set the stage for accessing the creative unconscious. The unconscious is the well of experiences that inform and inspire spontaneous inspiration. Psychologist Cheryl Arutt says, “I am continually amazed at the work of the unconscious in the minds of creative artists. The capacity to hold many details in the conscious, wakeful mind may seem limited; the unconscious is capable of holding far more.”
Of course creative thought is more than clearing the mind and hoping that brilliance strikes like a bolt out of the blue. In my personal experience creativity is something that is earned through experiences in daily life. Creativity requires dedicated practice of being interested in the world around us and acting on those interests to arrive at new insights.
Use mindfulness to empower yourself to arrive at more creative solutions with a clear mind. Living in the moment is getting tougher with us becoming more plugged in every day. Avoid the dreaded Monkey Mind and make life more fulfilling.