Tag Archives: meditation

Does Meditation Inhibit Creativity?

A student sent me an interesting article from the New York Times recently about the benefits—and costs—of meditation. The article discussed several meditation studies.  In the first, Amishi Jha, the director of the University of Miami’s Contemplative Neuroscience, Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative, taught United States Marines twelve-minute meditation practices that they performed daily.

Marines who meditated twelve minutes or more each day improved working memory and increased their ability to pay attention. Those same skills degraded in Marines that didn’t meditate or meditated less than twelve minutes each day.

A different study (by Michael Posner of the University of Oregon and Yi-Yuan Tang of Texas Tech University) showed that meditation enhances integrity and efficiency in the part of the brain that controls problem solving and rational decision making.

Still other studies have demonstrated that meditation can help improve GRE test scores. Simply put, meditation helps people learn and stay focused, in spite of distraction.

New research, however, indicates there may be a cost to all of that focused attention: creativity.

Jonathan Schooler, who runs a lab investigating mindfulness and creativity at the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that the most insightful ideas of both physicists and writers came when they were engaged in mindless activities—simple activities that allowed them to “space out.”

This creates an interesting conundrum for me as a yoga teacher/writer. Should I give up my mindfulness practices in order to deepen my craft?  Will my novels be more vibrant and engaging if I don’t try to control the random activities of my mind?

I suspect that the key, as in most of life, lies in balance.  For someone like me—who has suffered from chronic depression and anxiety most of her life—meditation is a powerful, life-changing tool. It trains my monkey mind to focus less on the bad things that might happen in the future, and more on whatever actually is happening in the moment. Meditation helps me stay present and truly take in the delicious world around me—a world that often ends up on the page.

My funniest lines pop into my head when I’m walking my dog—in that sweet, unstructured, daydreamy time that Tasha and I spend together in nature. Time I can only appreciate because of my meditation practices.

Without yoga and meditation, my mind would fill those walks with visions of tragedy and imagined despair. With it, I see more clearly.  Meditation has given me the ability to focus when I need to focus and let my mind wander to the vivid worlds of my characters when I don’t.

So to me, there’s no tradeoff between focus and creativity. Meditation gives me the ability to both.

What do you think?

Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and other retailers!

Safe Place Meditation for Relaxation

One of my favorite meditations allows me to transport myself to a place I love. Sometimes I imagine sitting in front of a roaring fire. Sometimes I walk along the the ocean. Sometimes I feel the rough surface of a dock I used to frequent over 20 years ago. Our bodies respond similarly whether we actually visit our favorite locations or simply imagine ourselves there.

The next time you need a vacation, there’s no need to wait save up money or accumulate vacation hours. Try this simple visualization meditation instead. The more senses you involve, the more deeply you will immerse yourself in the experience.

Safe Place Visualization Meditation

  1. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up to the ceiling. Sitting either in a chair or on the floor is fine, as long as you are physically comfortable and your spine is in “neutral.”
  2. Allow your eyes to close and your focus to go internal.
  3. Notice your breath—without intentionally trying to change it. Feel the warmth and coolness of the breath at the tip of your nostrils. Allow your mind to focus on and pay attention to this feeling of the breath. The breath will be your anchor.
  4. Bring to mind a place in which you feel calm and at peace, whether real or imaginary. Any place will work as long as it feels serene and safe to you.
    • A cabin next to a crackling fire
    • Your grandmother’s kitchen
    • A beach, lake, or other body of water
    • Cuddling in your living room with your dog, cat, or favorite human.
  5. Imagine yourself in your peaceful place using all of your senses.
    • What do you see? Be as specific as you can, down to the details of colors, textures and individual blades of grass.
    • What do you smell? Freshly mown grass? The brackish smell of the ocean? Vanilla candles? The delicious aroma of baked cookies?
    • What do you hear? The crackle of a fire? Purring of kittens? The breath-like sound of the ocean? Birds singing or chirping?
    • What sensations can you feel?  What textures can you feel under your fingertips? Is your skin warm or cool? Are your muscles tight or relaxed?
    • What do you taste? Is your tongue bitter, sweet, salty?
    • What do you feel internally? Are you hungry? Satisfied? Do you feel happy, relaxed, or peaceful?
  6. If your attention wanders (and it will!) just notice it, and invite your attention back to the sensation of the breath at the tip of your nose. Then return to your peaceful place and begin again.
  7. Continue this meditation for 10 minutes or longer if you’d like.

No matter where you are, you take this safe place with you. Visit it any time you need to feel safe.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out my author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available for preorder now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and other retailers!