How to Practice Mindfulness and Increase Inspiration and Creativity

2 06 2009

What keeps us from accomplishing what we desire, from finding inspiration, or from following through on our endeavors? How can we open up our creativity, imagination, and inspiration?

There are many obstacles that get in the way of our creativity and ultimately our ability to follow through on our ideas—scattered thinking, over stimulation, lack of focus, stress, being judgmental, presumptive, or self-critical…just to name a few.

One way to overcome these obstacles is to condition your mind to be more present, focused, and thus open to inspiration (it’s hard to be inspired when you are stressed or regularly distracted by lots of external stimuli). The practice of mindfulness is a great technique to consistently use to begin to overcome these obstacles.

Mindfulness has been around since the time of Buddha, but has lately been getting some mainstream attention as a beneficial practice with real tangible results. In fact, just earlier this week, an article about mindfulness was on the front page of cnn.com discussing its benefits in reducing stress.

So what is Mindfulness?
The most basic definition of mindfulness is ‘paying full attention to what you are doing, moment by moment’.

In a nutshell, mindfulness is the practice of being attentively present. It is called a practice in the same way that we say that people practice the piano because it takes time to learn and cultivate. While mindfulness is the simple ability to relax and bring forth an awareness of what is happening in the present, it can be hard to do. Especially in the day and age of reduced attention spans and constant stimulation.

Mindfulness can be highly effective in helping bring calm and clarity to the pressures of daily life, and help direct our minds and bodies to be more focused.

Examples of Some Practical Ways People Practice Mindfulness

  • Focus on deep-breathing exercises (i.e. inhale for 4, hold for 8, exhale for 6)
  • Consciously direct focus on an ordinary task, like eating a piece of food or doing a chore around the house, and solely focusing attention to that one task.
  • Take yoga, tai chi, or other similar classes where you focus on the relation between body, mind, and spirit

So how can mindfulness benefit creativity?
When we can be more mindful in the process of creating—whether with words, music, art, brainstorming, or innovation—we are able to focus with a clear mind and open ourselves up to a space where inspiration and creativity can flow more abundantly.

By being mindful, you are able to put yourself in a place where you can gain perspective. You are focused. You are curious. You discover something new. An idea is sparked. Inspiration strikes. A distinction is made. A perspective shifts. You are able to open yourself up to new possibilities. You are not distracted.

By practicing mindfulness in daily activities, you will begin to condition your mind and body so that you can learn to be focused and have mental clarity in other areas of life as well, including opening up your mind for inspiration and creativity.

Exercise: How You Can Practice Mindfulness

  1. Choose one routine physical activity that you perform most days and experiment with doing it mindfully. This means doing just this one activity while you are doing the exercise, for example not listening to the radio at the same time. It is also best to let go of any concern about the results or in finishing quickly. Remain in the present as best you can. What do you notice? What do you feel? Activities you might choose include brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, or some routine act of driving or walking.
  2. For one half-hour period during the week, maintain some regular attention of your posture as you go about with some normal activity. Without straining, assume a posture that is alert and upright. Notice what happens to your mood, thoughts, feelings, presence, and degree of mindfulness as you do this exercise.

Article from CNN on Mindfulness and Reducing Stress
http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/06/01/mindfulness.training.stress/index.html?iref=newssearch

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How You Can Use Music to Increase Creativity

28 05 2009

Have you ever noticed the affect that music can have on you? Or did you know that certain types of music can help create a balance between the more logical left brain and the more intuitive right brain—a dynamic interplay thought to be the basis of creativity.

Music can be a very powerful way to change your mood, channel inspiration and tap into creativity.

  1. Music can create emotions or change your state. Music can alter or change your mood or state—for example, there is certain music that makes me feel more creative (lately it’s been Beats Antique), music that gets me in the mood to work out, music to relax to, etc.
  2. Music can be a powerful anchoryou can “anchor” in your creativity with music. Can you think of certain songs that brings you back to a particular moment, experience, or person? You can use songs to create anchors that link up certain feelings with a certain song.
  3. Here’s a quick tip on how you can anchor yourself to creativity and music. For example, anytime you have a brainstorming session, start playing music that gets you in a more creative or innovative space. And then continue to play that music anytime you brainstorm. After doing this a few times, you will become anchored so that anytime you hear that music, you will be in a more creative or innovative state.
  4. Music has a physical affect on you—both consciously and unconsciously. Sound is composed of a variety of characteristics: wave length, decibels, hertz, timber, pitch, vibration, tone, etc. At the most basic level, vibrating sounds form patterns and create energy fields of resonance and movement in its surrounding space. We absorb these energies and they subtly alter our breath, pulse, blood pressure, muscle tension, skin temperature and other internal rhythms. Depending on their wave forms and other characteristics, sound has a variety of impact on us.

Music Has Creative Powers: It Can Slow Down and Equalize Brain Waves

Music can cause a shift in brain waves, which in turn causes a shift in our state.  For example, certain types of music are known to create theta waves —and typically, peaks of creativity occur during times when we are experiencing theta waves. So besides anchoring yourself to music, you can actually use music to create physical changes.

  1. Ordinary consciousness consists of beta waves (14-20 hertz). Beta waves occur when we focus on daily activities in the external world, and when we experience strong negative emotions.
  2. Heightened awareness and calm are characterized by alpha waves (8-13 hertz). Music with a pulse of 60 beats per minute can shift consciousness from the beta toward the alpha range.
  3. Periods of peak creativity, meditation, and sleep are characterized by theta waves (4-7 hertz).
  4. Deep sleep, deep meditation, and unconsciousness produce delta waves (.5-3 hertz). So the slower the brain waves, the more relaxed, contended, and peaceful we feel.

So how can you begin playing around with music to see its’ affect on you? Below is a list of various types of music and the states that it can invoke. Also, if you haven’t tried it yet, check out http://www.pandora.com. It’s a great, FREE online radio station—you can play around and listen to any type of music, genre, or artist.

I got the list below from the book The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit by Don Campbell.

Classical music (Hayden, Mozart) has clarity, elegance, and transparency. It can improve concentration, memory, and special perception.

Impressionist music (Debussy, Faure, Ravel) is based on free-flowing musical moods and impressions, and evokes dreamlike images. A quarter hour of musical daydreaming followed by a few minutes of stretching can unlock your creative impulses and put you in touch with your unconscious.

Rock music by such artists as U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, etc., can stir the passions, stimulate active movement, release tension, mask pain, and reduce the effect of other loud, unpleasant sounds in the environment. It can also create tension, dissonance, stress, and pain in the body when we are not in the mood to be energetically entertained. Read the rest of this entry »





40 Questions You Can Use to Awaken Your Creativity

14 05 2009

Asking great questions can be another way to awaken creativity. Questions have the power to direct and expand our focus, and even change the way we think and act. Asking yourself great questions during the creative process can really open you up to new ways of approaching things. And on the contrary, asking yourself crappy questions can really get you stuck. (By the way, this is not just limited to questions about creativity. This can be applied to any area of your life.☺)

Let’s think about this for a minute. If you find that you are asking yourself questions like, “Why won’t this work,” then you will find answers to that question and most likely not move forward. But if you tend to ask better questions like, “What resources do I have that can make this possible?” then you will find more empowering answers and move to the next step.

So what’s the difference between a great question and a crappy question?

Great Questions Can Help You….

  1. Find Inspiration.
  2. Gain a new understanding/perspective.
  3. Make it happen/Move yourself or another person to action.
  4. Move Past Obstacles/Focus on solution rather than  problems.
  5. Provide a deeper sense of meaning for your life, mission, art…

Crappy Questions Can…

  1. Focus purely on the problem and not the solution—it makes the problem bigger than it really is.
  2. Make you feel limited or unresourceful—it puts you in a stuck state where you don’t feel like you accomplish anything, be creative, or make any progress.
  3. Create endless loops.  Like, “Why can’t I get this right?”  If you ask questions like these, you can come up with endless answers and never know for sure what things really do mean.
  4. Sabotage any future ideas, successes, or visions.

40 Questions to Awaken Creativity

Finding Inspiration
1.    What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail?
2.    What do I really, really want?
3.    What’s my heart telling me?
4.    What is one of my biggest, wildest dreams?
5.    What inspires me? Where can I go for inspiration?
6.    What do I love? What am I passionate about?
7.    Who can I talk to that can inspire me? Give me new ideas?
8.    What keeps me up at night? What excites me?

Gaining A New Perspective/Seeing the Possibility
9.    What is possible? Is it possible…?
10.   What is a completely different way of looking at this?
11.    What have I not tried yet?
12.    What other way can I use this?
13.    What if…?
14.    What other choices do I have?
15.    What would I do differently if I had no fear?
16.    What is the dream?
17.    What am I building towards?

Making It Happen
18.    What does the end-result look like?
19.    What’s one thing I can do right now?
20.    What resources do I have that can make this possible?
21.    What resources do I need to make this possible?
22.    What has to happen to create this?
23.    What is one thing I can do right now to create this?
24.    What do I have to do differently to make this happen?
25.    What do I need to put in place to make this happen?
26.    Who do I know that is already doing this well?
27.    Who else has the ability to help me accomplish this?

Moving Past Obstacles/What Can I Learn
28.    What can I learn from my mistakes? Failures?
29.    How can I use this?
30.    What is beyond this problem?
31.    What if there were no limits?
32.    What can motivate me right now?
33.    What’s the most resourceful state that would help me right now?
34.    How can I use this the next time I have a similar situation?
35.    What can I find that’s great about this?
36.    Who/What can help me the most right now?

Seeing the Greater Purpose
37.    What is my ultimate mission/purpose in doing this?
38.    What is my legacy? What do I want to be remembered for?
39.    Who do I want to become as a result of doing this?
40.    How can what I’m doing have a positive impact on others/the world?

So become aware of the questions that you are asking—whether consciously or unconsciously. When you catch yourself asking a crappy question, stop, and then force yourself to think of a better question.

If you have other great questions to awaken creativity or innovation, please submit them as a comment!!