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Discovering creativity: it’s there, but can we see it?

by Andy Puddicombe

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Are you a creative person? This frequently asked question insinuates that some of us have a ‘gift’ to create imaginative things, while others are simply missing this attribute.

If this is the case, is creativity – whether that’s to use as a problem-solving tool, as a way of expressing ourselves or connecting with the world – given to us by nature or by nurture? Could any of us train to be an interior designer, or write a play, or is it just the ‘creative types’ among us that could tackle such tasks?

Where did that amazing idea come from?

However we see ourselves and however we view creativity, we all have those moments when we’re in the shower, or driving in the car, and a brilliant idea pops into our head.

Equally, most of us will have also had those terrifying moments when we’re told to be creative – the meeting where we’re instructed to ‘brainstorm’, the costume we must produce for our child’s school play. Then, our imaginations tend not to fire so easily, showing us that creative thinking can’t be controlled by the flick of a switch, or if it can, it’s one that tends to jam when we need it most.

According to many western psychologists, creativity is closely tied to the ‘conscious’ and ‘subconscious’ mind. But this is actually a bit of a red-herring. It suggests our minds are divided into two distinct areas we can only visit one at a time. In this way, to be creative, we have to specially ‘tap-in’ to the subconscious part of the mind, where our creative thoughts are otherwise locked away.

How to notice creative thought

In meditation, this isn’t the case. We only have one mind, so while we don’t always notice some of the thoughts and feelings that bubble away, they’re there – in the very same place as our conscious thoughts. They’re not stored in a separate compartment, we don’t need special creativity exercises to access them – all we need to do is become aware of them.

But how can we notice these thoughts more to increase creativity?

Think of the mind as the surface of a lake. When it’s busy, which our minds usually are, every active thought impacts the surface like a pebble being thrown onto it. Each one creates ripples, one overlapping the next and the next, making the surface of the mind full of movement.

Beneath this frenetic surface is where our creative, inspirational and spontaneous thoughts lie. They’re always there; they’re just harder to see because they’re obscured by the constant movement of the water above them.

So while we may think we’re not a creative person, we probably just need to give our thoughts a chance, by calming the surface to get a clear view of the creativity that lies beneath.

Read our next blog to find out how to use mindfulness to calm the surface of your mind.

Andy Puddicombe

Andy Puddicombe is a meditation and mindfulness expert. An accomplished presenter and writer, Andy is the voice of all things Headspace. In his early twenties, midway through a university degree in Sports Science, Andy made the unexpected decision to travel to the Himalayas to study meditation instead. It was the beginning of a ten-year journey which took him around the world, culminating with ordination as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Northern India. His transition back to lay life in 2004 was no less extraordinary. Training briefly at Moscow State Circus, he returned to London where he completed a degree in Circus Arts with the Conservatoire of Dance and Drama, whilst drawing up the early plans for what was later to become Headspace.

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