How can meditation and mindfulness training benefit our emotional health, change the quality of our thinking and enhance our creativity?
What do you think meditation is? Maybe a retreat into nature by yourself to sit in stillness?
That sort of venture can, of course, be one form of renewal and meditation, but there are many others.
But why bother with it? Aren’t we too busy trying to get stuff done? What value can it have?
Do we need to retreat into nature or solitude to make use of meditation?
In this article are references to research on meditation, well-known creative people who talk about the benefits, plus links to information about biofeedback programs and devices for meditation and mindfulness.
video: Is Meditation The New Brain Food? – with Drs. Gary Small & Daniel Amen
Gary Small is a professor of psychiatry and director of the UCLA Longevity Center at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior.
Daniel Amen is a psychiatrist, brain disorder specialist, director of the Amen Clinics, and a New York Times bestselling author.
Dr. Daniel Amen: “We thought meditation would actually lower brain function; it doesn’t – it activates the most thoughtful part of the brain which is the prefrontal cortex.”
In an article, Dr. Amen comments about using a biofeedback device to enhance meditation:
“Too often when people meditate, they actually have no idea how they’re doing. There’s no feedback.
“The beautiful thing about the HeartMath program is it gives you immediate ongoing feedback to know how you’re doing.”
Read more in article Biofeedback and Wearable Tech for Stress, Meditation and Fitness.
Meditation and creativity
Cory Muscara is founder of the Long Island Center for Mindfulness and assistant instructor in Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
In an interview about his own meditation journey and teaching mindfulness, he recommends the book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport:
“The premise of it is that we’re living in a society where there’s so many demands for our attention, but if we’re to do deep, creative work, it requires longer chunks of time to dive into it fully.
“What I’m aiming to do is have three times a day where I’ll check my emails, and then if I can, allocate 2–3 hour chunks to dive into topics that I’m interested in or writing that I’m looking to do.
“What that allows is for deeper concentration to arise. It’s that depth into something that allows new creativity and insights to emerge that might not if you’re just with something for 15 minutes.”
Learn more from Cory Muscara in an audio interview:
“Mindfulness has become a hot topic recently, gracing the covers of magazines like Time and Scientific American. Yet despite its rising popularity, many people remain confused about what exactly mindfulness is or how to start their own practice!
“On this episode of The Psychology Podcast, mindfulness expert Cory Mascara speaks with our executive producer Taylor Kreiss, sharing science backed advice and best practices for how to become more mindful.
“It’s a fun and practical episode for anyone looking to dive into mindfulness meditation!”
Free meditation class
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Read more about Fletcher and her ZivaMind programs below.
Research studies on the benefits of meditation:
“Mindfulness meditation can have benefits for health and performance, including improved immune function, reduced blood pressure and enhanced cognitive function.”
From a study in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, reported in article Meditation improves the immune system, research shows.
A Scientific American magazine article noted:
“Several studies have documented the benefits of mindfulness on symptoms of anxiety and depression and its ability to improve sleep patterns.
“Compared with novices, expert meditators’ brain activity diminished in anxiety-related regions — the insular cortex and the amygdala — in the period preceding the painful stimulus.
“The meditators’ brain response in pain-related regions became accustomed to the stimulus more quickly than that of novices after repeated exposures to it.
“Other tests in our lab have shown that meditation training increases one’s ability to better control and buffer basic physiological responses—inflammation or levels of a stress hormone—to a socially stressful task such as giving a public speech or doing mental arithmetic in front of a harsh jury.”
From Neuroscience Reveals the Secrets of Meditation’s Benefits, By Matthieu Ricard, Antoine Lutz and Richard J. Davidson, Scientific American, October 31, 2014 – ‘Contemplative practices that extend back thousands of years show a multitude of benefits for both body and mind.’
[Amygdala image from video “Emotions in the brain” on the page About Anxiety Relief Solutions – another of my sites.]
An article notes her book Staying Strong: 365 Days A Year was a New York Times bestseller, but Demi Lovato, “who has been open about having an eating disorder and suffering with depression in her teenage years, says that she still has to work hard at looking after her own well-being.”
She says: “You have to stay strong as my book says. I meditate in the morning and take ten minutes out of my day to read inspirational quotes that I’ve come up with on my own.
“I wanted to put them out there so that my fans would know how I’ve managed to stay strong.
“I worry about all the things I’ve experienced in the past which is why I always try to stay on top of it.
“It’s very dangerous being in recovery from an eating disorder, because you can easily slip back into your old ways.
“I have a lot of methods I use to cope. Some I learnt when I went for treatment, and I find meditation and therapy great for staying positive.”
[Photo from her Facebook page.]
“I don’t feel I’m very present in each moment.
“I feel like every moment I’m either thinking about something that’s coming down the road or something that’s been in the past.
“I meditate. Like, I try. Not every day, but even if I’m not doing that meditation, the moments of my day have changed because I’m not on my phone so much. I’m intentionally not checking my phone every two seconds.”
From The High Profile People Who Embraced Mindfulness, Meditation And Wellbeing In 2014, by Rachel Moss, The Huffington Post UK.
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Kerry Washington on meditation and self-care
A magazine article reported that when she was a college student, Washington “suffered through what she describes as an abusive relationship with food and exercise: compulsive overeating followed by endless workouts to erase the damage.”
“I started therapy, which I still do today,” says Washington.
“I also see a nutritionist and I meditate. Learning how to love myself and my body is a lifelong process.
“But I definitely don’t struggle the way I used to.
“Therapy helped me realize that maybe it’s okay for me to communicate my feelings. Instead of literally stuffing them down with food, maybe it’s okay for me to express myself.”
(From “Kerry’s Choice: Kerry Washington”, Essence mag. online December 16, 2009.)
“Prayer, meditation and journaling keep me calm and centered. Oh, and therapy helps too, of course.” (Shape Magazine, May 2012.)
[Photo from her Facebook page.]
(Washington earned a Presidential Arts Scholarship to attend George Washington University and graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. – From my page High Ability Women in the Arts.)
Emma Watson attended a spiritual retreat as part of her training to be a yoga instructor.
She notes, “I spent a week of training for meditation, to obtain my certificate” and says her interest in meditation is “born of an interest in Buddhism.
“I started being interested in a literary way, but I realized that reading books wasn’t enough, that you have to practice for it to work.
“So I started it, and I love it, it helps me a lot.”
Emma Watson talks love of meditation, yoga, Buddhism. by Sam Littlefair, Lion’s Roar, December 3, 2015.
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The image below is from a video in the article:
Top CEOs Reveal The Most Important Habit For Success
From Huffington Post 01/20/2016
“Russell Simmons calls meditation the core of my existence.”
“The secret to success may be as simple as taking deep breaths and focusing on your inner voice, according to leading CEOs such as Rush Communications’ Russell Simmons, Medtronic’s Bill George and Marshall Moya Design‘s Paola Moya.
“In the video, Dr. Emma Seppala — author of The Happiness Track and science director at Stanford University’s Compassion Center Center — discusses how meditation strengthens your brain and leads to a happier workplace.”
Related slideshow 19 Reasons To Love Meditation includes many quotes and links to articles – such as:
“Even more research is drawing a clear link between mindfulness meditation and lowered stress.
“A new study in the journal Health Psychology shows an association between increased mindfulness and decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
“This is the first study to show a direct relation between resting cortisol and scores on any type of mindfulness scale,” study researcher Tonya Jacobs, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis Center for Mind and Brain, said in a statement.
Mindfulness for Beginners – Reclaiming the Present Moment — and Your Life, by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Part of the description:
“Here, the teacher, scientist, and clinician who first demonstrated the benefits of mindfulness within mainstream Western medicine offers a book [and audio] that you can use in three unique ways: as a collection of reflections and practices to be opened and explored at random; as an illuminating and engaging start-to-finish read; or as an unfolding “lesson-a-day” primer on mindfulness practice.”
See the list of titles at Sounds True.
This image is from a fun and witty video: “How To Train Your Monkey Mind” in the article Here’s How You Can Meditate Anytime, Anywhere, Even if you only have a minute. 07/12/2016 Madeline Diamond, Intern, HuffPost Video.
The article notes, “There are many misconceptions about meditation that Tibetan Buddhist master Mingyur Rinpoche wants to set straight.
“The biggest one? You don’t have to quiet your mind for an extended period of time in order to reap the benefits.”
More creative people who meditate
Kate Hudson says: “Meditation has saved my sanity.
“Not that I was crazy, but in this world of hyperspeed, overstimulation, no escape from technology, and constant emotional stress, it’s very hard to stay centered and grounded.
“And yet, since I’ve integrated meditation into my daily life – which doesn’t mean I do it every day – I feel so much more at ease, knowing that I can re-center myself when life feels out of control.”
(From “Kate Hudson Turned to Meditation to Get Through a ‘Difficult Time in My Life'” by Julie Mazziotta, People, 02/05/2016.)
The photo is from the cover of her book Pretty Happy: Healthy Ways to Love Your Body.
Daphne Zuniga on taking a self-imposed hiatus from acting in the past:
“I wanted to go deeper inside myself, and I did meditation retreats and yoga, and made real connections with people who were liking me for who I was as a human being…
“I came out with a real fearlessness and a joy for what I do.
“I know that place of being an actor and wishing and wanting for things to happen for you, but the truth is that it happens inside.”
[Los Angeles Times/TV Times Aug 7-13 2005.]
A good definition is provided by Wikipedia:
“Biofeedback is the process of gaining greater awareness of many physiological functions primarily using instruments that provide information on the activity of those same systems, with a goal of being able to manipulate them at will.
“Some of the processes that can be controlled include brainwaves, muscle tone, skin conductance, heart rate…
Biofeedback may be used to improve health, performance, and the physiological changes that often occur in conjunction with changes to thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
You may already be using a biofeedback device such as a Fitbit.
See post for videos and other information about Thync, HeartMath, Muse: the brain sensing headband and other devices:
More on the value of mindfulness and meditation.
Author Orna Ross comments:
“Perhaps when relaxing in the bath or when looking into the eyes of a child. Perhaps even in the midst of a busy crowd.
“Moments when the thought traffic that ordinarily stomps through your head ceases and your mind falls into stillness, into mindful being.”
She adds, “Those whose lives are most creative, in most spheres, are those who are courageous enough to bring their conscious awareness to the challenging, miraculous, moment-by-moment art of living.”
From Developing creativity: Orna Ross on meditation. [See link in article to her site and resources.]
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The image above is from an article by Taylor Kreiss of the UPenn Positive Psychology Center.
He notes that in recent years, “researchers have taken a close look at the effects of meditation on creativity, and the results have been promising… open-monitoring meditation primes our minds for idea generation, which is a crucial part of the creative process according to expert Scott Barry Kaufman…”
From Improve Your Creativity With This Science-Backed Guided Meditation! [includes audio files]
Also hear an edition of The Psychology Podcast with Scott Barry Kaufman: “Tim Ferriss on accelerated learning, peak performance and living the good life” – which includes “Tim’s recommendations for getting started with meditation.”
Timothy Ferriss is “a serial entrepreneur, #1 New York Times bestselling author, and angel investor/advisor (Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Uber, and 20+ more).”
In their book on creativity research, Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire make a number of references to meditation and creativity. For example, they note:
“Steve Jobs has even said that meditation — which he studied with Zen master Shunryū Suzuki, author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind — was the main source of his creativity.”
“After around two years of practicing meditation, Moby said that he had achieved a higher quality of life and enhanced creativity, mostly by quieting the negativity and noise in his mind.”
In an article of his, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman writes that “Relaxation training appears to increase creativity by reducing anxiety and freeing the mind from negative thinking.
“This form of training is related to mindfulness meditation.
“Indeed, a recent review of the literature found a moderate relationship between creativity and mindfulness…”
He notes a research study concluded that “while ideational-skills training benefited extraverts more than introverts, relaxation training benefited introverts more than extraverts.”
Above quotes are from my article
Neurofeedback, Brainwave Meditation and Creativity
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Elaine Aron on using meditation:
“I know for myself at least, as this movie [“Sensitive, The Untold Story”] takes me more out, I need and want to counter it with more being inside.
“For me that means more meditation, which for me is Transcendental Meditation.
“There is plenty of science to show that it provides a dramatically deep state of rest, allowing the brain and body to repair itself and reduce numerous problems, from heart disease and diabetes to anxiety and depression, and perhaps most impressive are the many studies showing its particularly powerful effects on generating personal growth.”
From her post With this Movie We Will Be Much More “Out”—Perhaps It’s Time to Be Much More “In” as Well, August 26, 2015.
[The post has a link to a PDF report: The Psychological Effects of Meditation: A Meta-Analysis.]
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Many creative people find that some form of meditation can help nurture their creative work and other aspects of their life.
Another example: actor Jessica Chastain has commented on preparing for her role in “The Tree of Life”:
“Emotionally and spiritually, I had to figure out what it meant to play the embodiment of grace.
“And how do I capture that?
“Okay, so I start studying paintings of the Madonna at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I start listening to music that inspires feelings of love inside me, I start reading books about cultivating joy and cultivating gratitude.
“I start meditating.” [Quotes from imdb.com]
Meditation for the Highly Sensitive Person by Madisyn Taylor
[link to Amazon for MP3 album.]
“Now Madisyn Taylor of DailyOM has created this supportive and calming guided meditation, specifically recorded for people that are Highly Sensitive.
“Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) herself, Madisyn has created this unique 34 minute listening experience that starts with a long, safe relaxation session, followed by a sequence of positive thoughts and affirmations specially designed to help the brain of sensitive person know that all is well, and concluding with useful tips on how to navigate being highly sensitive in this world.”
[Text from dailyom.com.] Here is a sample:
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Another reason to meditate: A UCLA news story notes:
“Eileen Luders, an assistant professor at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, and colleagues, have found that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification (‘folding’ of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster) than people who do not meditate.”
A Scientific American article adds:
“Meditation can sharpen attention, strengthen memory and improve other mental abilities. Scientific American editor Ferris Jabr examines the changes in brain structure behind some of these benefits.”
From post: Taking a Closer Look at How Meditation Improves Our Brains by Eric R. Olson, Scientific American.
Video: How Does Meditation Change the Brain?
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Meditation for better Performance
“My morning meditation is like taking a shower for my brain.”
Emily Fletcher was also a participant in the Consciousness Engineering program by Mindvalley Academy; her conversation with Vishen Lakhiani is titled Meditation For Better Performance. The website summarizes:
“Emily Fletcher is one of the world’s leading experts in Meditation. She has been invited to teach at Google, Harvard Business School, Summit Series, Viacom, Awesomeness Fest & Relativity Media.
“Emily…was inspired to share this practice with others after experiencing the profound physical and mental benefits it provided her during her career on Broadway, which included roles in Chicago, The Producers, A Chorus Line and many others.”
In her conversation, Fletcher says, “I do my morning meditation and then it’s like taking a shower for my brain.
“And I immediately feel ahead of the game and I feel charged and ready for the day. I know it’s cliché because I am a meditation teacher but it is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
“That, and I would say selfishly, I love waking up to emails from my students and clients telling me that, “I wrote this book.” “I stopped drinking.” “I lost ten pounds.” All because they’ve learned this simple stress relieving technique.”
One of the testimonials on her site:
“I used to go through life gripping everything so tightly, I also had terrible stage fright.
“Since learning Ziva meditation, everything shifted. I rarely have performance anxiety anymore.
“Even during The Sound of Music performing live for millions of people, I wasn’t nervous.” Laura Benanti, TONY award winner and actor inTV series including “Nashville” and “The Good Wife.”
[Photo of Laura Benanti from laurabenanti.com]
Learn more about the training program at Fletcher’s site:
Ziva Mind – ‘do less. accomplish more’
Jessica Alba is an actor and co-founder of the Honest Co., a billion-dollar personal care and home goods company.
(She is at the right in the photo at the company.)
She commented on relieving stress: “When I need to zone out and quiet my mind, I listen to a meditation podcast from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center.
“Each one is literally just three minutes long, so I can go into a bathroom stall or do it in my car. But I’m really intrigued by Transcendental Meditation. Everyone I know who does TM has this inner peace and a glow. I want that.” [Shape mag. May 26, 2015.]
In her Huffington Post article David Lynch’s Secrets For Tapping Into Your Deepest Creativity, Carolyn Gregoire says that in his book, Lynch likens ideas to fish:
“If you want to catch a little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.”
She also notes that Lynch is “an outspoken devotee of Transcendental Meditation, which he’s practiced daily for over 40 years and brings to underserved populations through his work with the David Lynch Foundation.
“And the award-winning director says that meditation is his greatest secret to creative success.”
Book: Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, by David Lynch.
Part of a summary of the book: “A window into the internationally acclaimed filmmaker’s methods as an artist, his personal working style, and the immense creative benefits he has experienced from the practice of meditation.”
“Transcendental meditation is for [all] human beings, and it transforms life for the good, no matter who you are or what your situation is,” Lynch said in a Rolling Stone interview.
“It’s a mental technique that allows [you] to dive deep within to the deepest level of life, which underlies all matter and mind.
“At the border of intellect, you transcend and experience that unbounded level of life: all positive, pure consciousness with qualities of intelligence, creativity, happiness, love, energy, and peace.”
In another interview, he comments about meditation and creativity:
“You want more ideas, you want more energy to do the work and more happiness in the doing – where are all of these things? They are within…
“I think ideas are out there and you catch them like how you catch fish. The more consciousness you have, the deeper you can catch those ideas.”
[From “Why filmmaker David Lynch says Transcendental Meditation is the secret to success” by Alene Dawson, Los Angeles Times, June 3 2016.]
[Photos of Lynch above are from my article Multitalented Creative People.]
An interviewer notes Heather Graham has been practicing Transcendental Meditation for over 20 years.
“She picked it up when working with the director David Lynch on the TV series Twin Peaks and the film Fire Walk with Me in the early 90’s.
“She has been keeping up regular practice – 20 minutes twice a day – ever since.”
“I’m kinda high-strung, so it’s easy to get anxious,” Graham says.
“But TM calms you down. It helps you find that peaceful place inside yourself – so whenever your life is going a bit crazy, it reminds you how to be really centered.”
From article Heather Graham on emptying her mind, TMhome, June 20, 2014.
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More to meditation practice
In his article What Daily Meditation Can Do for Your Creativity, Mark McGuinness comments:
“It’s important to note that there’s a lot more to meditation practice than simply ‘boosting your creativity.’
“If I were to promote meditation as some kind of creative thinking technique, the monks would be rightly appalled – or amused.
“So the benefits I’m going to describe, while very real, are really side effects of meditation – if you approach meditation looking to “get” any of these things, you’ll probably be disappointed.
“On the other hand, if you just practice it for its own sake, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover yourself experiencing some or all of the following: Focus…Patience…Calmness.”
“Qualities such as focus, calmness, clarity, and insight are as important to your creative process as glamour and stimulation.”
I occasionally use the Holosync program (mainly as an aid to relaxation and deeper napping; the image above is from their site), plus the Omharmonics sample audio program.
You might also like brief guided meditations by Irene Langeveld, who helps people “Thrive with your sensitivity.”
One of her posts with a video: Earth Meditation – a guided meditation to connect with the energy of the Earth.
Meditation techniques and classes are popular among Silicon Valley professionals
“Meditation and mindfulness are the new rage in Silicon Valley. And it’s not just about inner peace — it’s about getting ahead.”
[A comic take on meditating:]
Raj Koothrappali [Kunal Nayyar]: OK, Sheldon, I’m going to be leading you through a series of meditation exercises. These methods come from the ancient gurus of India and have helped me overcome my own fears.
Sheldon [Jim Parsons]: And yet you can’t speak to women.
Raj Koothrappali: True, but thanks to meditation I’m able to stay in the same room with them without urinating.
[The Big Bang Theory: Season 3, Episode 18 The Pants Alternative (22 Mar. 2010); photo: Kunal Nayyar and Laura Spencer in The Big Bang Theory in a 2007 episode.]