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What’s more creative chaos or calm?

by Andy Puddicombe

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I have spent large chunks of my working life in various creative industries and it has often seemed to me that I am at my most creative when my mind is most chaotic, my thoughts excited by numerous simultaneous stimulants (background music, excited conversation, frenetic sketching, too much coffee and sugar, for instance), a mental hothouse which forces mental connections, lateral thinking. Mind you, I’ve also always been aware that this state is not sustainable and can have negative after effects.

Mindfulness, in contrast, seems to be about the precise opposite state of mind. I’m still finishing the Foundation course so have not had the opportunity to find the answer in your Creativity meditations but I wonder how you believe it is that mindfulness can be as creative as monkey-mind?

Andy’s answer:

Many thanks for your question and it’s one which I know many people find themselves asking when they are learning to meditate.

As attractive as the coffee-sugar-music-foot-tapping-induced thinking might be, as you say, it is often unreliable and most definitely unsustainable. That’s not to say that you won’t have experienced some of your very best ideas in that state, but that in no way precludes an alternate way of discovering creativity, which is arguably even more effective and most certainly enjoyable.

The starting point is to acknowledge that we only have one mind. We tend to separate things and perhaps imagine we have a monkey mind and a mindful mind, but mind is mind and there is only one. It is this illusion which creates doubt about giving up an old way which is tried, tested and a little uncomfortable, and trying something new.

So, if we look at where those thoughts come from when the mind is very busy and distracted, they don’t come from our regular everyday thoughts about the laundry, they appear between the thoughts right? So it is from the space ‘between’ the day-to-day commentary. But when the mind is very active, we tend to only experience that space for a fraction of a second. Sure, long enough to catch a glimpse of that idea, but fleeting nonetheless. But what would it look like if we spent most of the time resting in this space?

I’m not sure if you’ve already seen it, but either way, it’s worth taking another look at this animation.