Since I’m not here to convince anyone to take on meditation (although you really should!), let me reassure you: the topic has little to do with Tibetan Buddhism, Zen, Transcendental meditation, Kundalini or any other Eastern tradition.
I’m more interested in a specific type of meditation. One that can help artists feed their creativity.
Believe it or not, a strong link exists between boredom and creativity. You’ve all experienced it: as a child, when you were bored for long periods of time and your mother insisted that you got off the Nintendo console to go play outside, what did you do?
You created your own games.
That’s how my sister and I designed a complex game at the age of 8 and 6. Infuriated by the habit of their enemies to exploit them as the basic substance when brewing cursed potions, the Pumpkin Nation declared war on the neighboring Tribe of Witches, Fortunately, the two girls next door agreed to impersonate the witches!
Okay. Let’s get back to writing.
You’re stuck. Blocked. And you need an idea for the climax of your future award-winning novel.
What do you do? Try to get bored out of your mind? Almost.
You sit and look inward.
How to Use Creative Meditation
1. Meditation works best if you sit cross-legged (you don’t have to do the full lotus pose), back straight but relaxed, palms resting on your thighs just below the knees. For those like me who aren’t too flexible, it helps to sit on hard cushions to keep the knees below the hips.
2. Keep your eyes closed and deepen your breath.
3. Start by noticing how you feel. Does your back hurts? Do you feel agitated, anxious, hopeful? Simply look at those emotions or sensations without judging them. Try to accept them.
4. Now. It’s time to think about your story. Summon images from the problematic scene in your story. If you can’t see your story world or characters, don’t worry. Focus on the concepts or ideas you wish to put down on paper. Then start asking your questions.
Depending on the situation, questions can be as simple as “what happens next”: What happens to Natasha after she makes the decision to follow Anatole blindly, forgetting her love for her fiancé?
They can also target concepts: What emotion or theme do I want to convey through this particular scene? How can I achieve that?
Or tackle tricky bits: How do I bring my plot twist even further so it can blow my mind along with those of my readers?
Sometimes, when you’re lucky, you don’t need more. Ideas just pop-up out of the blue. And I’m not talking about hours. Ten to fifteen minutes is usually enough.
If what you’re looking for is more complex (character creation, book ending and so on) you may need step 5.
5. Up to here, what you have been using is actually called guided visualization. Let’s now go deeper into the meditation phase proper.
Its quite simple: Forget about your story.
You’ve asked your questions during Step 4, now it’s time to trust your subconscious and let it do the heavy lifting.
So what do you do in the meantime? You meditate!
How do you do that? There are many ways, but here is the most common one: Focus on the breath. And don’t think that you’ll be able to stop your thoughts. This is the biggest misconception of what meditation is. You will have thoughts. When they come, label them “thinking” and then come back to the breath.
Unless your interested in meditation for other reasons, don’t worry if you keep getting distracted by thoughts, feelings and sensations. Its normal. Mastering meditation takes years. The good news is, we don’t need to master it for our purpose.
After ten to fifteen minutes of sitting through Step 5, get up, stretch and get back to work!
In my experience, most of the times, ideas emerge during any of the five steps, mostly the fourth and fifth. If it doesn’t, I go for a walk, work on something else without worrying that it didn’t happen this time. I know that the answer will materialize sooner or later.
Why? Because our brain is just one big problem-solving machine.