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Can Meditation Stimulate Creativity?

May 15, 2015

When googling the phrase “creativity games,” I came across a 2013 blog post by Tanner Christianson, an expert on creativity and a product designer at Facebook, who cited studies demonstrating that “brain games are bogus,” if the goal is making people generally more creative. However, he adds the caveat that solving these games make us feel good, which does enhance creativity, and if you pair them “with thought-reflecting activities like meditation or yoga,” then “you’ve got yourself a recipe for turning into a creative genius.”

In a related blog, Christianson refers to the novel Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova, a world-renown Harvard psychologist and writer, when explaining that “thinking on our experiences forces us to observe.”

Right-Brain Thinking

Intrigued by his findings, I thought about the relationship between meditation and creativity. I believe that meditation can allow more “right-brain” thinking to occur. Although still controversial, many have described the different attributes of “left-brain” versus right-brain thinking, which are generalized terms not strictly mapped to the physical hemispheres, as differences occur due to handedness. The left brain gives us our analytical, logical, and organizational skills, among others. In contrast, the right brain gives us our artistic, visual, and intuitive abilities.

Patricia Sun, an ethicist and frequent speaker on the mind-body connection, believes that one of the pitfalls of left brain thinking is that it can be too rigid and judgmental. The right brain, in contrast, gives us our open-mindedness and allows us to be receptive to new ideas. “By its nature, it captures the picture, just sees it how it is. But the left brain sorts it out, categorizes it, makes judgments, puts it in polarity boxes and therefore contorts, distorts and simplifies it,” she states.

My Drawing Experience

Exercise 5, Right Brain Drawing

This description reminded me of my own personal experience many years ago when I attended a weekend class based on the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. Before participating in the drawing exercises, my sketches had problems with proportion and form typically caused by left brain thinking.

During the exercises, these problems lessened (left, pen & ink), and after completing the class, the improvement in my drawing was dramatic (right, charcoal).

Thinking Outside the Box

If “thinking outside the box” means thinking of alternatives to your habitual patterns of whatever logic you use, then the left brain might keep your thinking “inside the box.” Experts on creativity, such as Roger von Oech and Michael Michalko, recommend avoiding uncreative traps, such as thinking there is a right or logical answer, avoiding ambiguity, and judging ourselves as foolish or not creative.

Creativity flourishes in an encouraging and nurturing environment where all ideas are valued equally in the first brainstorming phase. They suggest different approaches to looking at the question at hand, so you can break your mind free from any existing logical reasoning.

Why Meditation?

Creativity heightens in naturally relaxed states, such as showering, daydreaming, or just before sleeping. Meditation can serve as an intentional means of creating an inner environment that calms the left brain’s tendency to analyze, plan, and control outcomes. It allows the right brain space to reflect and receive new insights.

Ultimately, research has shown that highly creative people use both sides of the brain, which can be seen as evidence that the integration of the left brain’s ability to manipulate data and evaluate possible solutions is valuable.

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