meditation and creativity

August 29, 2007   |   6 Comments  |   FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites

Am at Karme Choling right now, teaching a meditation retreat for writers. This combination of practices is magical.

Meditation practice reverses the traditional model for getting somewhere. We don’t see something out over the horizon and then put one foot in front of the other until we get there. Instead, we try to stay still and let something come toward us. The something-out-over-the-horizon sees us and we remain quiet until it gets here and identifies itself.

It helps to hold the mind in a state of not knowing. We encounter a large blank space. Something magical happens. Congruence between inner and outer worlds arises and what moves toward us is what we seek. Thoughts magnetize each other in unexpected ways. Then words come and you hear what you have to say.

About music, author Claudio Naranjo says, “real creativity happens…when the musician gives up any attempt to do anything different. Only repetition invites spontaneous variation.” This creative play, as expansive as it is contained, seems to rely simply on arriving, day after day, and making your whole body and mind empty through the practice of meditation.

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6 Comments

  • Posted by:  karen

    Hello. I am reading How Not to be Afraid, and liking it very much. I have not formally attempted meditation yet. For years I was afraid that it would loosen demons I was not ready to confront. I think I am ready. I have a question about the obstacles you discuss in chapter three: you talk about not trying to change your thoughts, to learn to relax with your thoughts. Would it be right to say that you are merely observing the way you think?
    Also, as I read your book, it occurred to me that perhaps I was at times experiencing something like meditation after all. I am a carpenter currently doing industrial scaffolding. The work is physically demanding-the steel gear is heavy and scaffold must go up, be used and come down quickly. I joke that my job is like eight to sixteen hours of aerobics and weight training. Especially in a very tall build which requires a chain of workers passing gear to the builders, I have noticed that I don’t actually seem to be thinking. I am focussed-on my breath, on the necessary movement of a particular muscle, on the motion of grasping a piece of gear and watching first the man below me release it and then the man above me grasp it in his turn as I release it, experiencing, but not really thinking. I have thought of the state of mind I experience in these times as “Flow”. Is there a connection between flow and meditation?

  • Posted by:  Douglas

    An interesting post… I would like to know the source of the Naranjo quote: ‘… real creativity happens when the musician gives up any attempt to do anything different. Only repetition invites spontaneous variation.’ Anyone who studied acting with Sandy Meisner can testify to the validity of this statement.

  • Posted by:  susan

    douglas, hello. isn’t that naranjo quote amazing? the source is an audio tape i heard of a “luncheon chat” with claudio at the 2003 international enneagram association conference. (a mouthful, i know.) when i heard him say that, i pulled over and wrote it down immediately. it struck me as so deep and true.

    what did sandy meisner have to say on this topic? if you could direct me to any source, i’d appreciate it!

    i think this thought–that repetition invites variation–is so interesting.

  • Posted by:  susan

    karen, hello! thanks for being in touch. so glad you’re enjoying my book. thank you for mentioning.

    regarding your question about observing thought vs relaxing with your thoughts–this is an interesting question. here are a few reactions: i think relaxing is a little different than observing. imagine the difference between relaxing with a child vs observing him or her. in both cases you’re not really doing much, but the former sounds a bit more intimate.

    in any and all cases, if you notice yourself wondering whether you’re relaxing or observing in meditation, try to gently let that question go and return attention to the breath. when in doubt, return attention to the breath!

    which leads me to your experience of your work. there is something incredibly relaxing about synchronizing body and breath, whether it’s through meditation, yoga, swimming, or, in your case, raising scaffolding! but while an activity may be MEDITATIVE, it’s still different than meditation, which is a very particular practice and can teach you how to bring a meditative mind to all endeavors. i believe this is the key to the connection between flow and meditation. they’re not the same, but they have a very close relationship! this has been my experience.

    hope this is useful–

  • Posted by:  Mary

    Hi Susan,

    My sister is Ktahleen Roberts, I thinky you may have met her…I am back at grad school at 56 doing my master’s in Communication Development..I am doing a research project on the impact of meditation on a writing practice…I see that you are teaching a retreat for writers…I live in Colorado and am a member of the local Shambhala Center..would love to come to one of your retreats…but for now I have to finish this project! Have you written articles on the specific topic of meditation and writing or can you advise me as to some good sources? I hope I am not asking too much…a couple of sources or articles would be great…Hope to see you either at Karma Choling or Kripalu…Thanks, Mary Roberts

  • Posted by:  susan

    Mary, hi. Congrats on grad school! I’m fascinated to hear about your research project. I haven’t written anything on the topic (although I’m suddenly inspired to…), but see this post for an answer:
    http://www.susanpiver.com/2007/10/09/books-on-meditation-creativity/

    Keep me posted! I’d love, love, love to hear what you discover. And if I do write on the topic, I’ll e-mail you. Best, Susan

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