In our busy lives, it’s easy for the mind to get bogged down by everyday thoughts: tedious work tasks, grocery store runs, kids’ schedules, and all our inner chatter. So how do we allow our creative thoughts to bubble up to the surface?
Let’s imagine the mind as a lake and everyday thoughts as pebbles that get tossed into the water. More thoughts make more ripples and, before we know it, the lake has lost its stillness. Beneath the ripples — in the depths — is where our creative thoughts lie. But it’s more difficult for them to stir and rise up because of all the movement and noise on the surface.
By using meditation for creativity, we can calm the mind to create the stillness and clarity that then allows us to access our creative inspiration, giving it the space it needs to float to the top. That’s precisely why it seems like our most creative thoughts often surface as we’re drifting off to sleep, during a walk, or in the middle of a shower. Because our preoccupation with the stresses of the day or the busyness of mind drops away when we unwind and relax, creating the conditions for creativity to flourish.
Training the mind with meditation can teach it to find the spaciousness that creativity requires to thrive
Meditation can help us tune in to our creative side, whether we’re artistic or not
Try 8 meditations for creativity
Creativity can mean something different to everybody. For some people, it’s about tapping into their inner creative well so that they can be artistically inspired. For others, it’s more about creative thinking; coming up with solutions to solve a problem or fix a technical hitch. However we view creativity, we’ve all experienced those “a-ha” moments when an idea has dropped out of nowhere into the mind. It’s also fair to assume that many of us know the pressure that comes with someone telling us to “get creative”...and we draw a blank.
Most of us know by now that we can’t just show up and expect creativity to do the same. Even the most naturally gifted artist will tell you that creativity isn’t a switch to be flicked on and off — it’s an energy that has to be tapped into and exercised.
Neither is it a matter of accessing a certain side of the brain. Popular psychology has taught us that in order to be creative, we must unlock the right brain, where conceptual, imaginative, and innovative thoughts are forged — like this is some kind of creativity treasure trove — and avoid the left brain, known for being practical, logical, analytical, and rational.
In meditation, however, there’s just one mind. A mind where creative thoughts and conscious thoughts cohabitate, and are not locked away in separate compartments. There’s no special key. All we need to gain access to this place where creative thinking thrives is to foster the stillness that leads to calm and clarity.
When we’re stressed or overly fraught due to busy schedules, pressure at work, or the demands of family life, our mind can feel tense, maybe even restricted. That’s when we can feel impatient or frustrated, with no room to think. There’s little hope for any creative element to surface in such conditions. But here’s what’s worth remembering: creativity is an innate aspect of the mind; a resource that’s always there and always available to us.
When we meditate — when we rest in awareness — we’re stimulating our creativity. In learning to let go of our day, our thoughts, our emotions, we are letting in creativity. It’s almost like we are saying: “It’s okay, everything’s calmed down, you can come out now!”
Meditation creates the conditions to move through life effortlessly, from one situation to the next, with a sense of freedom. With this, there comes a sense of purpose with fluidity, and a sense of direction with ease. Through the eyes of meditation, this is what it means to be creative, whether or not you’re creating ideas, a piece of work, or problem-solving.
There’s a meaningful relationship between meditation and creativity. Creativity uses the mind as a whole. Meditation helps strengthen the mind in order to bring about more creativity.
Unlocking the creativity-boosting benefits of meditation doesn’t require expert-level practice. In fact, one study found that after listening to a 20-minute guided meditation, people experienced better brainstorming skills and higher creativity — even if they were brand-new to meditation.
This same study uses meditations that are both available to members in the Headspace app: focused attention and resting awareness (which the study refers to as “open-monitoring”). In the first, we use an object of focus, usually the breath. In the second, we simply rest in awareness, without an object of focus. Both meditation styles encourage us to let go of cluttered thoughts and emotions so that we can make space for creative insight.
Headspace’s Creativity course begins by anchoring the mind to the present by focusing on the breath and how the body feels (focused attention). It then moves into a creative visualization meditation in which we imagine a tiny speck of light in the mind (our creative spark, if you will), picturing that speck expanding outwards in every direction until it grows so big that we ultimately set it free. As we rest in this boundless, open space, we’re learning to be free of any expectations or inner commentary (resting awareness).
“The qualities we’re focusing on are spaciousness, brightness, a sense of clarity, and most of all a sense of limitless mind,” says Headspace co-founder and former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe. “Simply imagining the mind to be that big brings a feeling of space, in both the body and the mind. And it’s within this space that we start to become more familiar with the qualities of creativity.”
The Headspace course also encourages us to have a pad and pen at the ready, to jot down thoughts and possible solutions as they come to mind, without thinking about them. Creatives will see the freedom in this process because this, too, is encouraging the mind. It’s inviting us to step away from overthinking or overanalysis and to instead work our creative muscle. To simply let the ideas flow.
Looking for more meditations for creativity? The Headspace app offers subscribers several courses and single meditations for sparking inspiration and finding focus, including:
Creativity course. Learn how to recognize your creativity and give it the freedom to grow.
Dealing With Distractions course. Create a calm environment.
Finding Focus course. Get familiar with a relaxed, precise kind of focus.
Breakthrough Focus music. Kick-start your creativity with steady rhythms and bright tones.
Zoom Out Focus music. Retro-futuristic synthwave creates a nostalgic electronic soundtrack for focus.
Focus meditation. Bring out the innate focus within you through a quick mindfulness exercise.
Creative Writing meditation. Learn to create the space for creativity to thrive.
With practice, meditation for creativity can allow us to experience a flow state where the mind and body are totally absorbed and deeply focused, beyond the point of distraction. This calm, spacious mind helps us clear away all those ripples from that metaphorical lake. With space and stillness, we can cultivate the right environment for creativity to surface, grow, and flourish.