On meditation as creative prescription
and doing whatever works
I wanted to explore the idea of meditation’s role in creativity, the romanticization of meditation, and the difference between creative flow and meditative practice. But let’s begin with you. And me.
I’ve meditated daily for over 15 years. Without fail. But sometimes my meditations are just a few minutes. And if I think about meditation in a certain way, perhaps I’ve always done it—right on back to the hypnotic state I’d achieve while sitting on the ledge outside my bedroom window as a kid and feeling the wind kiss my cheeks.
One of the first essays I ever wrote as an adult (along with an exploration of Camus and a parakeet) was about how packing a box of Parliaments or Newports, tapping the bottom of the box with just the right pressure to release a single cigarette, lighting it with my Zippo, inhaling deeply, and blowing the smoke slowly with slightly puffed cheeks and a steadfast gaze was my meditation. I’d been reading a Buddhist text on death and had drawn a little grim reaper behind a stick figure on my fridge above the caption “Death is hovering, so why stress out?”
Sounds a bit macabre, I realize, but it was truly rather uplifting to me at the time. I savored every puff of smoke and every moment I could. Not once finding contact with a meditation cushion or listening to a guided meditation, I accessed some part of meditation—the focus that can come with routine and dedication. Along with smoking, my meditation at the time was, increasingly, writing.
While at one time, smoking a cigarette was as close as I could get to meditative focus. Now, I’m a bit more literal with my meditation, but the goal is still to achieve focus and clarity outside of meditation. My goal is not mere meditative focus but rather a sort of meditative presence — at least an attempt — while living. Not merely while on a cushion or a yoga mat. Not just while doing a ritual or routine. Not just while listening to another’s thoughts on the topic.
But in every moment I can call to mind clarity and presence.
So. Meditation and creativity. What’s the connection, if anything?
For me, it’s simply accessing a space that is receptive and attentive. My friend Jim Coe posted on my last blog post and got me thinking about the delineation between writer and writing. Are they one and the same? Or are we barely a part of our output—just a vessel from which to relay uniquely accumulated information?
In meditation, we watch the mind, but we also find presence. So we’re at once watchful and able to access the senses. We’re able to do it all. Reflect, feel, and visualize. Presence means being inclusive of all the component parts of the self.
I find this same access point in writing, but I also know that my own experiences, influences, and biases feed my writing as much as the more mysterious … the muses if you will.
Then again, perhaps our very life is the muse.
It’s all mysterious, and we just need to slow down enough or look with the right angle or through the right medium, to connect. To feel. Fully. And enjoy wherever we’re at.
I guess my takeaway is that you don’t need to have a meditation practice that looks like one or another teacher tells you it should. And you certainly do not need a specific meditation practice to be creative. You just need to find the mediation in the creativity.
That said, why not practice with me?
When you have 16 minutes to spare, let’s do this together. This is the raw recording I made for Aura and Insight Timer, so there’s no intro music, but I think it’s pretty clean. I wrote this one to focus on taking my personal practice off the cushion or mat. And setting a little cueing exercise for meditation in the midst of living.
Next week, I’ll discuss writing residencies (‘cause I’m at one, and I took an interesting journey to get here).
Thanks for practicing with me. Thanks for reading. Let me know your thoughts on or experiences with meditation and creativity.
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