Is creativity a matter of nature or nurture to you? Does it spontaneously arise when you least expect it, or do you deliberately attempt to be creative? Are there times when you wish you could be more creative? And what does creativity mean to you anyway? Is it something that allows you to solve problems, is it something through which you express yourself physically or is it something that keeps you feeling connected and in touch with the world around you?
We can interpret and interact with this thing we call creativity. Sometimes the approach is full of good intention and yet nothing seems to arise, and other times we can be in the shower, or wondering what to have for lunch and the best idea in the world suddenly pops into our mind. So why does it happen like this, and what can we do about it? And is it even possible to train the mind to become more creative?
When it comes to creativity, western psychologists often like to talk about it terms of "conscious" and "subconscious" mind. This suggests that they are two distinct places, and that we somehow have to "access" or "tap into" this creative space. From a meditation point of view, that’s not strictly true. Sure, if you had to give a name to those thoughts and feelings you are not aware of in any given moment, you could call them "subconscious" -- or anything else for that matter. But whatever you choose to call it, we are still talking about the mind ... and there is only one mind!
Subconscious thoughts, or creative thoughts, are those we are usually not aware of, which we are not conscious of. Yet they arise from the very same place as conscious thoughts. The reason we are often unaware of these creative, inspirational and spontaneous thoughts is because the surface of the mind is constantly moving. The busyness of the mind creates ripples on the surface, in just the same way as throwing a stone into a pond creates ripples on the surface of the water. The problem is, most people get so caught up in the appearance of these ripples that the water never has a chance to settle. Just imagine looking into a pool of water ... The calmer the water, the clearer the reflection. Again, the mind is no different, when the surface-thinking settles, it becomes much easier to see the contents of the mind -- and therefore become conscious of the creative thoughts which you were previously not conscious of!
So, moments of downtime in the day, like taking a shower or stroll, can help to showcase why many great ideas wait until then to arise. It simply reflects a slowing down of mind-traffic, and therefore greater clarity and headspace. But there is something else happening in these moments too: An absence of effort, an absence of trying and absence of doing. We are so used to "doing" things, that the mind can become very narrow, very limited. It loses the spacious quality from which creative thoughts manifest.
So, when we allow the mind to wander off in situations like taking a shower, it’s a bit like taking the mind off the leash, and it begins to behave very differently. The only downside with this approach is that we can’t guarantee when the next flash of inspiration will come.
And that’s why it’s so important to train the mind, to point it in the direction of an authentically creative space.
The creativity that we’re looking for is already there ... we just need to learn how to sit back and allow it to appear. The more often we do that, the more familiar it becomes. In this way, it would be quite right to talk about meditation, in a creative context, in terms of "the discovery and familiarity of creativity."
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Kickstart your meditation practice with a 10-day starter program from <a href="http://www.getsomeheadspace.com/" target="_blank">Headspace</a>, a free guided meditation app. The comprehensive guided meditation sessions offer clear and straight-forward mindfulness instruction for beginners, who can continue to access hours of videos and audio meditations by subscribing for a low monthly fee.
The Mindfulness App
Sometimes, just remembering to be mindful is the hardest part of sticking to a practice. If you need a little nudge to help you stick with your meditation routine, try <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/the-mindfulness-app/id417071430?mt=8" target="_blank">The Mindfulness App</a>. The biggest perk of this $1.99 program is that you can set location alerts to remind you to stop and meditate at a particular time or day of the week, or even when you enter a certain location.
This<a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/buddhify/id474005305?ls=1&mt=8" target="_blank"> $2.99 app</a> describes itself as "the urban meditation app for modern life," and was named the number-one health app by UK news outlet The Sun. App Store reviewers rave about the app's clear, simple design and relaxing guided meditations. Customize your meditation to your location: It offers tailored guides for when you're at home, walking or at the gym.
Designed specifically for young people, <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/app/id560442518" target="_blank">Smiling Mind </a>makes meditation fun, easy and accessible. Created by a team of psychologists who specialize in adolescent therapy, the app offers programs catered to different age groups, from 7-11 years old to adult, and also includes reminders.
Mindfulness Meditation By Mental Workout
This best-selling <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/app/mindfulness-meditation/id312327144" target="_blank">iPhone app by Mental Workout</a>, designed by renowned meditation teacher and psychotherapist Stephan Bodian, provides guided meditations for both beginners and more experienced mindfulness practitioners. The app features an eight-week program, inspiration talks, body scans and relaxation instructions. According to one App Store <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/app/mindfulness-meditation/id312327144" target="_blank">reviewer</a>, the app is the best way to learn mindfulness "short of finding your own personal meditation teacher."
Short guided meditations, with or without music and nature sounds, for relaxation and presence are the focus of this <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/simply-being-guided-meditation/id347418999?mt=8" target="_blank">$0.99 app</a>. Perfect for beginners looking for something simple, Simply Being is highly rated for being user-friendly and customizable.
Meditate -- Meditation Timer
If guided meditation isn't your thing, try going your own way with a basic <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/meditate-meditation-timer/id322538701?mt=8" target="_blank">meditation timer app</a> that allows you to follow your own practice, either silently or accompanied by bells. The statistics feature also allows users to track their practice and chart progress.
This <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/walking-meditations/id412648679?mt=8" target="_blank">app by Meditation Oasis</a>, the makers of Simply Being, is geared toward mediation on-the-go. With three different guided walking meditations, users can plug in their headphones and unwind in transit. The app comes with a diary for users to keep track of their progress.
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