Despite the title, what you’re about to read is far more about not doing, than doing. Today, many of us are experts at doing. We tick off tasks, reply to emails, schedule social events and rarely spend a day without documenting some aspect of our lives on social media. All of this achieving sends messages to the brain that give us a little hit of dopamine and adrenaline – we feel a sense of happiness and pleasure that we’re achieving, and we’re amped-up to do more… The thing is, all this doing means we tend to spend much of our time in a reactive and restricted state of mind, with a narrowed perspective on life and a diminished ability to use our creativity.
Creativity, it seems, needs space. It needs freedom, and if we can tap into our creative power, research shows we’re likely to feel less stressed and more relaxed, we’re likely to come up with new and interesting ideas, more efficiently problem-solve, and start feeling much more present with each moment. Search online for ‘creativity’ and you’ll see countless YouTube videos on ‘How To Be More Creative’. In truth however, we already have an abundance of creativity bubbling away within us, it’s just usually covered over by being ‘busy’ and attending to to-do-list-type tasks. We are already creative, we just need to create the space for it.
Pause for Creativity
Running on the treadmill of daily life often means we’re stuck in habits and states of mind that leave little room for creativity. In an age when time is money, and wasting time is essentially a modern-day sin, allowing time to pause and for the mind to wander is something many of us probably try to stop ourselves doing. It turns out however, that pausing and even day-dreaming is the exact action that allows us to tap into creative energy.
In a discussion with the Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle uses football to explain the necessity of pausing. He says that the likelihood of a player scoring a goal during a penalty shootout is dramatically increased when they take a moment to pause before kicking the ball, as opposed to the players who reactively attempt the goal as soon as the whistle is blown. This moment of pausing allows us to connect to a ‘non conceptual intelligence’ and a ‘deep, intensely alive stillness’, redirecting attention away from the desired outcome (which we have no control over) and the focus on ‘I, me, my’ (the ‘ego’) . Tolle says that this deeper reservoir of awareness is where all true creative power resides. To find this for yourself, try pausing before launching into a creative task, taking regular breaks to pause throughout the day, and spending time in un-structured quietness, listening to the deeper awareness within.
Go for a Walk
Whilst stillness is a powerful way to connect to creativity, walking is also known as one of the most creativity-enhancing practices there is. Researchers at Stamford university found that taking a walk boosts creativity by about 60%, and many of the world’s most famous creatives such as artist Pablo Picasso, writer Henry David-Theroux, composer Beethoven, and writer Virginia Woolf were loyal to their daily walks. Woolf’s walks in London were said to give her great inspiration, and she often walked for hours in London parks. What these successful artists also had in common was that almost all of them stopped working to enjoy dinner with family and friends – no phones or out-of-hours emails! When they worked, they worked, and when they chose to stop, they truly stopped, which allowed time for their brains and bodies to re-set before another day of creativity. To boost your own creativity, try taking a daily walk without the interruptions of technology, emails social media.
Get Into The Flow State
The ‘flow state’, also known as being ‘in the zone’, is described as a state of being ‘fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process [of a particular activity]’. The word absorption is a pretty accurate way to rdescribe the flow state, and it’s likely you experience this without realising whenever you’re engaged with certain tasks. Being in a state of ‘flow’ has been characterised as having the following components in combination:
- Intense concentration on the present moment
- Actions and awareness merge
- Loss of reflective self-consciousness
- A sense of personal control over the situation
- Altered sense of time
- Experiencing the activity as being meaningful and rewarding
- Being so absorbed in the experience that other needs become negligible
When all these experiences are combined, we seem to encounter what many yogis describe as deep states of meditation; where the sense of ‘I, me, my’ disappears, and we’re fully immersed in the present moment. We can experience a ‘flow state’ with any activities that require focus and that we enjoy, such as running, playing an instrument, knitting, practicing yoga, writing, playing a sport, cooking or gardening. In the flow state, the mind is released from its usual day-to-day functioning, and Alpha brainwaves are most dominant. Alpha brainwaves are the frequency between the conscious and subconscious mind, also present during deep relaxation. This state allows those often original and creative thoughts to occur that seem to ‘come out of nowhere’.
Change the Scenery to Awaken your Creativity
If you want to feel differently and spark new, creative ideas, try taking a trip somewhere different, walking a different route, or simply changing where you might sit to work from home. Our brains form habits quite easily, and we’re triggered by external queues all the time without even realising it. An example of this is the space you practice yoga in, or even your yoga mat; once upon a time, you actively chose the space you practiced in, and you made a decision as to which mat or set of props you were going to use. Now, when you step into your practice space or get on your mat, you begin to trigger all the thoughts and sensations you have about yoga. Your external environment flips a switch in your internal environment. This also happens when you walk into your kitchen in the morning and automatically start making a cup of coffee, or when you open your laptop and instantly go to check your emails. The more we repeat these habits, the more we shape how our mind works. As you may have experienced during lockdown however – doing the same thing every day can start to lose its enjoyment!
To awaken your creativity, change your external scenery, and along the same lines – try experimenting with different styles of yoga, different guided meditations, or interacting with new movement practices you’ve never tried before!