Iím the first to admit being a stress bunny. Some days I thrive on it, other days it near wrecks me. In my everyday life there came a point where I needed to sit back and start learning how to relax. One of the relaxation tools I learnt was meditation. Iím not great at it, I get distracted easily, and I donít do it anywhere near as regularly as I should. However, I did find that a nice side effect of relaxation and meditation was the improvement to my creativity.
Now this is nothing new. Meditation has been linked to the arts and spirituality for centuries. Sumi-e is a way of meditating through calligraphy/ brush painting, the Mandala is a geometric pattern (often circular) used as a focus for meditation, even the architecture of temples and churches enhances the ability to relax and attain a higher sense of tranquillity and peace. Many artists talk about Ďbeing in the zoneí when they get so engrossed in a painting that everything flows and they lose track of time.
Meditation can be as simple as:
Listening to a CD of yoga, tai-chi, or meditational music. Any type of music that helps you relax, brings down your heart rate, and contains no jarring lyrics or noise is good (normally I find music without words is best for pure meditation, but I like some New Age music with lyrics for relaxing and getting me into a painting mood. That being said, I donít paint to meditational music very often -- only when Iím trying to chill out or go for a particular mood in my painting).
Learning breathing techniques. There many techniques available, I use some simple ones such as ĎThe Relaxing Breathí (sometimes called the 4-7-8) a lot. It takes only a few minutes and has been called a natural tranquilizer -- which is great in stressful situations. Other techniques include things like Autogenic training (where you focus on a particular part of your body, relaxing each bit as you go).
Doing guided meditations. This is where you either listen to someone describe a meditation. They may tell you how to breathe, may describe a place youíre visiting or describe how you should be feeling. This is my personal favourite kind of meditation because itís a visual experience. Itís like travelling without leaving your house.
Focusing on an object such as a flame, crystal, religious icon or Mandala as you breath. You may have music or silence. I have a set of beads I wear. When I get stressed (and need to get my emotions under control) I use them as a focusing tool, rubbing my finger over the surface and focusing on the feel of the stone, or just counting them as I slow my breathing down.
Tai chi and yoga also utilise breathing and movement to achieve the same relaxation and peace.
It could even be sitting on a beach or your garden by yourself.
Meditation is about being in that particular moment and remaining focused and calm.
So what are some of the benefits of meditation in regards to art and creativity?
It can help focus the mind before you start painting. If youíve got home from work, are wound up about some incident with the fax machine, itís a way to relax, calm you down, get rid of some of the negative energy youíre carrying around. This all sounds very ĎZení, but itís very simple -- if you are thinking about what happened at work, you arenít thinking about your artwork.
It can kick start the muse. Meditation is a great source of inspiration. Put on some soft dreamy music, lie back, let your mind take you to far away beaches, jungle paradises, marble halls with huge sweeping arches and columns running down one side. Guided meditations are often great for this as they may have sound effects such as running water, waves crashing, bird calls, thunder, all atmospheric elements to take you to another place.
It has health benefits. It improves your focus, can help your posture (depending on the type you do), can help your general well being and ability to cope with stress. Different kinds of meditation will do different things for you.
It reduces your stress and helps you cope with life better. If you are relaxed and coping, that spilt paint on your carefully detailed painting becomes an opportunity for a warrior to suddenly get a new costume!
Some people may say that the art of painting is like meditation. You know when everything just flows and youíre Ďin the zoneí. But if youíre having trouble getting into the Ďzoneí, need to unwind, or just want a way to unblock your creative energies, meditation or any of the associated meditative practices may help.
* Please note that this is not a guide to meditation. Itís simply a summary of some of the types of mediation Iíve tried and how it has helped me as an artist.
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