Meditation for a Creative Breakthrough - Yoga Practice Blog

Meditation for a Creative Breakthrough

yoga teacher trainingBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500 

A great many people are required to be creative, on a daily basis, as part of their job description; but sometimes, it seems like the more we try to force it, the more unlikely a creative breakthrough happens. This leads to increasing levels of stress, as the deadline on the creative project looms in the background. Must it be this way? New research has shed light on what goes on in the brain when humans struggle for a creative breakthrough or solution to a problem – proving that stress is not an essential part of the picture.

During a struggle for a creative solution, individuals give their utmost attention to a project or problem, refusing to let themselves think of anything else, until they come up with something creative. The more they focus, the less likely finding a creative solution seems. Everyone has a breaking point, where the stress and fear of failure become so great, that they are forced to shift their attention elsewhere, if only for a short time. When the attention is turned away from worry, suddenly, a flash of inspiration hits the individual, and the answer appears seemingly out of nowhere. This is the infamous ‘Aha!’ moment, which artists and creative professionals pursue for their entire lives.

Many argue that stress is an unavoidable dark side of the creative coin, but this is untrue. If individuals understood the underlying process of facilitating a creative breakthrough, the high stress would become a thing of the past.

What people are really doing is focusing on a problem; giving it their utmost attention. This is good, but if a solution is not found, one begins to experience burnout, angst, worry, or depression. After a period of over focus, we train the mind to let go of judgment, worry, and the problem itself. This helps us let go of mentally struggling to force something to happen.

This state of ‘letting go’ then triggers an alpha state in the brain, just like meditation. The alpha state then encourages the brain to enter a gamma state, and in a gamma state, rapid connections are formed in the brain. When the gamma state is activated, after having focused so intently on the project earlier, the brain simply arranges the seemly unrelated pieces of the creative puzzle together in a new and novel way; solving it in a wonderful and unexpected manner.

This is a beautifully simple process, but humans often make it so much harder on themselves, due to misinformation about how it really works. Yes, a problem or project must be given adequate attention; otherwise, the fragmented pieces will not be there later for the brain to work with. However, the individual must let go. Prolonged refusal to let go of a situation is what leads to stress, suffering, and a stifling of creativity.

So here is a method for meditating for a creative breakthrough. First, give the project or problem your full attention. Keep the mind quiet, and let the focus of your entire being be on this creative endeavor. Once this step is done, go ahead and try to come up with a preliminary solution. If a viable solution comes to mind, at this phase, further creative thinking or meditation may not be needed.

If you feel a big obstacle ahead, begin to meditate; breath awareness, or mindfulness meditation are both good choices. Meditate and let it all go. Quiet the mind and go deeply into a meditative state, watching the thoughts that pass through the mind. During, or directly after the meditation session, the solution may present itself; and it is a good idea to keep a pen and paper handy for when it does.

If this fails, begin the process from the beginning, giving the project the benefit of your full attention, and calmly search for a solution. If a solution is not forthcoming, enter a meditative state, while calmly watching and waiting for the answer to come forth. That is the method of meditating for creating an epiphany.

This model sets the stage perfectly for creative breakthrough to happen. The best part of this method is the fact that it is an active process rather than a passive one, in which stress is reduced or eliminated. By meditating, one also lets go of the attachment to the outcome of their work, which leads to a higher quality end result, overall.

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