Turn a struggle for ideas from 'um?' to 'om!'
I first came to meditation in 2015, on a drunken night out.
My brother told me down the pub that he was reading Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World, and was really getting into it. He extolled its virtues to me and my partner Mark. Over several pints, he convinced both of us to discover mindfulness meditation for ourselves. Which we did.
Sometime later Mark and I were working at advertising agency Adam&EveDDB. One lunchtime they arranged a talk by Will Williams, of the eponymous Will Williams Meditation (now Beeja Meditation). Will is a practitioner of the Vedic meditation tradition, and one of our colleagues had been so impressed by his introductory course, she got Will into the agency to speak to us and spread the joy.
Mark and I had only recently started working together as an agency creative team, so we were still getting used to that new dynamic. Plus we both had some wrinkles in our non-work lives that needed ironing out. So we both thought there was nothing to lose in taking Will's 3-day course. Learning Vedic meditation was nothing less than transformative.
Over time, I admit the recommended twice-daily meditation has become more like once a day. In the meantime, I began a daily yoga practice and pre-breakfast exercise routine. Add in showering, earning a crust, checking on family and friends, making dinner, doing chores and admin, this blog, and trying to catch my breath (did I miss anything?), I think I can cut myself some slack. Point is, once a day is better than none a day.
Okay, so why does meditation help with creativity? Well firstly, it gives you clarity. It declutters the mind. It stops the noise of the outside world, social media, and doom-laden news. Those things may still be buzzing around your brain, but over time, by focusing your mind on your breath, or a mantra (a repeated word or phrase), you can learn to invite peace into your head and realise you have a choice about whether to act on negative thoughts or not.
And then the fun begins. Because without so much of the crap invading your headspace, the stillness in the aftermath of a meditation session can invite new thinking. Random thinking. I often find my mind wandering off somewhere I never even imagined it would. A long-forgotten memory of someone, or something. Or thinking about more recent things, and why they are the way they are. Deep man. Well, not exactly, but then - out of nowhere - a new thought or idea pops into my head.
Sometimes you just need to give the thinking mind a break though, so you can feel refreshed enough to start the day.
Think you don't have time for meditation? Think again.
There's a really good podcast episode with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tim Ferriss where Arnie talks about the benefits of Transcendental Meditation (or 'TM'), which is Vedic meditation by another name. He practiced it solidly for a year, before saying "I'll be back" - and now he just returns to it whenever he needs to. I think his attitude shows that once you've really mastered something you can go back to it more easily. A bit like riding a bike, or playing a musical instrument.
You don't need to spend a year cross-legged on a mountain top to learn meditation though. There are loads of quick access meditation apps to help you get some meditation into your day. Many of these platforms have 5 minute meditations. Everyone can - and should - make at least 5 minutes for themselves every day.
There are no downsides to meditation.
Concentrating on your breath, or a mantra, is the one thing anybody can do.
And the one thing everybody should definitely do is give their mind a break now and then.
Or 'a tea break from life', as Bill Roache from Coronation Street calls it.
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