A Guided Meditation for Creative Block
I’m about to get super “woo woo.” new-agey.
Actually, meditation isn’t “new age,”–it’s ancient but timeless, and its great for restless creative-types.
Self-help is kind of my thing (aka obsession), and I’ve recently stumbled on what I believe to be the holy grail of self-helpery: Acceptance through mindfulness-based meditation.
I struggled trying to put a name to this concept, because it comes with different labels. Buddhists call it Vipassana, psychiatrists call it Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), every blogger in the world just calls it “mindfulness,” but it’s all the same philosophy:
Our resistance to pain (emotional and physical) causes suffering. We alleviate the undue suffering our minds create when we willingly connect with our pain, experience it in its fullness, without judgment, and without trying to control it.
There’s more to it, and I could talk all day about it because it’s wonderful and life-changing, especially if you struggle with mental health issues like anxiety, panic or depression (as many creatives do).
I’ll leave you with a couple of links to my favorite books on the topic at the end of this post, but i’d like to get right into why mindfulness meditation is good for creatives:
It calms the restless mind- A lot of creatives have what I like to call “clutter brains.” We entertain an enormous amount of thoughts during the day, so it’s hard to focus on one goal, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Mindfulness can bring awareness away from thoughts and focus your attention on bodily sensations.
It undermines self-judgement- Most creatives are harsh self-critics, sometimes to the point of self-loathing. Mindfulness teaches us to see thoughts for what they really are: just thoughts passing through the moment, not who we are. When we learn to look at our thoughts rather than from them, we’re less likely to buy into thoughts like, “I’m worthless.”
A few mindfulness basics before starting the guided meditation:
– Mindfulness meditation is drawing your attention to the present moment, and unconditionally accepting everything that comes with it–thoughts, emotions, noises, physical sensations, everything.
– It can be very difficult for people with busy brains. Brains don’t like to settle down, and they will naturally try and resist by constantly spinning thoughts and stories. Try to let go of judgmental thoughts like “This isn’t working!” “I suck at meditating!” Don’t judge the judging though–just try and notice when this is happening and gently redirect your attention to the present moment.
-Mindfulness is not about feeling comfortable or “relaxing.” In fact, you may experience uncomfortable thoughts or physical sensations. Don’t push anything away. Just notice everything and accept it. I like to mentally label things and then say “yes” to them. “Itchy nose…yes.” “Back pain…yes.” Of course, if you’re having overwhelming pain, you’ll need to stop and tend to it!
– Allow yourself to directly experience the moment, rather than tell stories about it. We like to judge our experiences: “Anxiety is bad.” “Pain is bad.” “Calm is good.” We push away the bad, and try to cling to the good. Let go of those judgments and focus on experiencing these feelings for what they are, directly, and without trying to control them.
Keeping all of that in mind, find a quiet place where you’re not likely to be disturbed. Set a timer so you aren’t anxious about the time. I recommend at least 20 minutes. I usually take a while to get centered, so I go for 30-45 minutes.
The following paragraphs are meditation instructions. I will take you through the process of connecting with the present moment first, and then guide you through a visualization to reconnect with creativity. Read over them until you can remember them, or feel free to record the instructions and play them back while you meditate.
Get into a comfortable position. Start by focusing on your breath, breathing slowly and deeply. If you’re having trouble focusing, you can think the words “in” and “out” or “inhale, exhale” as you breathe, until you can maintain focus.
What does breathing feel like? Where do you feel it most? The chest? Stomach? Nostrils? Is it cool? Warm? Are there any smells in the air? Lose yourself in the sensations of breathing. Do this as long is it takes to steady your attention on the direct experience of your breath.
Once your mind has settled a bit, and you can hold your attention on the present for longer periods of time, slowly let your attention “scan” your body, starting with the tips of your toes and moving up through the top of your head. Meditation teachers call this, “dropping into the body.”Don’t move on to the next body part until you’ve fully experienced all the sensations in the previous one.
If thoughts arise, just notice them. I like to mentally say to myself, “Mind wandering…back to body,” when this happens.
Try to feel each body part from the inside, out. What do your toes feel like? Are they warm or cold? Can you feel any tingling? Pulsing? Move on to your feet, ankles, calves, knees, thighs, pelvis, abdomen, chest, arms, hands, neck and head.
Feel your body as a whole. Sense the space your body is taking up. Feel the pressure in the areas where your body meets the floor or chair. Let your attention fall on whatever physical sensations are happening. Can you notice how it the sensations move and change constantly?
Can you connect with your awareness of everything? Who is aware of what is happening?
Bring your awareness back to the breath. Use your breath as an anchor to the present moment, whenever you mind starts to wander.
As you breathe, try to bring to mind a moment when you struggled with creative block. Imagine yourself, sitting in your chair, or however you were in that moment. What were you working on?
Hold this memory in the cradle of your present-minded breath.
Try to reconnect with what you were feeling at the time. Frustration? Anger? Anxiety? Did your mind feel cloudy? Numb? How did your body feel? Was your chest tight? Breathing shallow? Were your shoulders tense?
Try to get in touch with those feelings, let them flow through you, without getting lost in them, reacting to them or trying to control them. Explore the nature of your emotions and sensations without judging them.
Try to locate the area in your body where you felt blocked, and gently breathe through it, imagine the air flowing in and out of it freely. Imagine that area softening. Release the contraction you have around it. Continue to breathe in and out of that area.
How were you relating to yourself in that moment? Did you feel angry toward yourself? Did you feel inadequate? Defective? Broken? Ashamed?
Place your hands over your heart. Continue to breathe in and out, feeling your chest rise and fall. Feel your heart beating. Feel the warmth your hands are generating.
Imagine your heart beginning to radiate warm light with each breath. Imagine your heart opening and the light flowing throughout your body. Your negative feelings and physical tension are being bathed in the light. The light carries an energy of unconditional kindness and compassion.
Your heart is opening wide, and there is plenty of room to hold your uncomfortable feelings.
Tell yourself mentally:
“I care about this pain.”
“May I have peace.”
“May my heart soften and open.”
“May I be open to inspiration.”
“May my creative energy flow freely.”
“May I hold myself with kindness, always.”
This meditation is an example of mindfulness as well as what is called “loving kindness,” or Metta Bhavana.
There is much more to mindfulness than what is mentioned here. The following is a list of books that expand on the philosophies of mindfulness and acceptance. I love them and give them my highest recommendation!
On practicing mindfulness:
Calming Your Anxious Mind by Jeffery Brantley
On mindfulness and the philosophy of acceptance:
Radical Acceptance By Tara Brach
Get Out of Your Mind and into Your Life By Steven C. Hayes with Spencer Smith
Photo Credit: Copyright: belitas / 123RF Stock Photo
How did you feel after practicing mindfulness meditation? Share your experience in the comments!