I’d love to tell you I have a simple solution for what’s promised in the title but all I have to offer is a t-shirt 😬I do at least have the solution but simple it is not. Meditation is what I’m talking about. That’s clearly what this new design is intended to convey. This is an extension of my DanelDoodle‘s where I’ve selected some for printing on T-Shirts and you can find others in the shop.
We all know Creativity at work is important. It is a leading driver of innovation and it boosts productivity. And when you are in the right flow, you are more creative and productive. Other than having a formulaic approach to better flow (Formula pins down what gets people in the “Flow”) we all want to know what leads to better creativity and some of the other outcomes it contributes to. I know what works for me and instinctively and from experience, you might know about these too. In this four part series I want to share what works for me – this post covers meditation and the creativity boosters tag captures all the posts.
First a little more about creativity and why it is so important at work. Each post from the series will elaborate on one aspect of this and then go onto the specific creativity booster that supports it.
Does creativity still matter in the age of Artificial Intelligence? That is a central question of our times as both “capabilities” are so in demand and prominent. My view is a resounding YES.
AI is becoming capable of creating music, art, code, etc. It is even driving outcomes in customer engagement. What then for the role of human originality. In my view, it is in combination that we can expand the infinite possibilities and solutions – technology, data and the human touch blended to achieve scalable solutions that meet unique human needs or spark unique human engagements.
Take customer engagement. Though AI is being used to driver greater customer engagement outcomes, humans are creative thinkers, seeing connections between things that might not seem at all related. Humans often see obscure links to find solutions to seemingly impossible problems. Humans also bring emotional intelligence and empathy, interpreting emotions and meaning from nuances in body language, voice, and even silence and adjusting as needed.
Empathy is critical too and showing that you understand a customer’s dilemma is the first step to helping them solve their problem.
Human cognition is also innately intuitive, using life experiences to make rapid decisions. We don’t just use the facts in front of us to make judgments and draw conclusions. We draw on experience and knowledge accumulated over a lifetime.
I have written an eBook on Mindfulness practice and how it can lead to better outcomes at work including how it can improve your creativity. Improved mindfulness is an outcome of meditation BUT that is not the point of meditation.
Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment and therefore if you meditate for an ulterior motive, that is to say, to improve your mind, to improve your character, to be more efficient in life, you’ve got your eye on the future and you are not meditating.
Meditating to improve your creativity is the same thing. Having said that, done well and for the right purpose, meditation definitely does improve a vast number of things as a result, including your creativity – or so I find.
And whether it’s through meditation or an increased level of mindfulness, there are also things you can do to increase your flow state and inspiration potential or just get you back on the right path. Here are a few pointers:
Activities you can do to influence an “aha moment” brain state:
Reduce distractions (sensory deprivation), e.g. meditation session with eyes closed, go into a dark space, etc.
Think positive (it activates the anterior cingulate which expands your scope of thought)
Widen horizons (imagine yourself in a vast environment like space, or a different one, like another country)
Notice when you have the urge to “push through” or “think harder” and try stepping away instead. Stepping away is part of the creative process. Giving your unconscious mind time to reorganize the information and clarify it for you.
Setting aside time for creative play provides the space the mind needs to work out how to bring ideas to life. Everyone has the capability of creativity. Think of it as forming patterns in unique ways. Here is a sample of some activities for creative play. The key to play is to detach from the outcome and release yourself from the rules and structure. In other words, just see what comes up without judgement!
Another story amongst a series, this one based on my experience with Headspace after being given access to a free trial through work. Also a few added thoughts around the role of meditation in mental health and when it will not replace well placed psychiatric or psychotherapeutic treatment.
For good reason (escalated by the COVID-19 pandemic), enterprises realise they need to ensure employee’s mental wellbeing is taken care of. Also that employees are helped to better take care of themselves. It’s in the enterprise’s interest. Activities geared to supporting them are booming and IT and HR departments are driving them. Mindfulness practice is an important aspect but there is more.
Discovered this Japanese Zen Buddhist monk and live-looping artist, Yogetsu Akasaka. He live streams on YouTube. This is one of many. I could get into some seriously cool meditation to some of these tracks, this one in particular.
Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens and Homo Deus, among others, makes a powerful commencement speech in this recent video. As a Dharma Hacker I subscribe to the view that we are hackable. It’s how its done and to what end that is important. Some more thoughts on that and the video, in addition to what I have already written.
The title of this post is hopefully not too oblique and its clear I’m referring in part, to the challenge of our time – COVID-19. And when I say mindfully, my principle context is the practice of meditation, where paying attention is key. By paying attention you become more aware. You become more concentrated and achieve states of natural clarity. All the better to manage responses (or non responses) to circumstances effectively. By stakeholders I mean the individual and groups, like organisations and broader societies.
The other day in a meditation session I arrived at an insight – roughly represented in the doodle.
In my best sessions when I can get to that calm place, insights arise.
Finding that place of calm, focus and insight is difficult and not always achieved in a meditation session. Sometimes just getting to calm is my best outcome. That’s because of all of the things that come into play to take you away from that place.
This situation is kind of a metaphor for life. I wanted to write a post to share my insight about why meditation is such a powerful tool. It can lead to many insights and one of the most important is about our true self.
In meditation, many things keep us from practicing well with good outcomes. Discomfort with sitting, distractions like noise, thoughts, etc.
In life, many things detract from the ability to enjoy and be productive every day. Some are cirmcumstancial and others of our own doing.
If we can but learn to see past circumstances, distractions and our own bad habits, we can arrive at the essence. The essence is where we are enjoying who we are and what we are doing. When we are in that state of being, we can be productive and lead meaningful lives.
Being aware of the barriers is the first step. Doing that consistently takes practice. Meditation is one such practice.
Getting to the truth or essence you can then start distilling that further and form insights about reality.
Allow me to elaborate on the main elements in the doodle.
These are the minutea that get in the way of a focused, productive and enjoyable life. Many are of our own making and we allow, even encorage them. Whittling away fruitless hours on social media with the contsant dings of notifications to entrench it. Endless but pointless to do lists that don’t have any meaningful outcomes – shallow work instead of deep work. Even circumstances that require our attention but we sometimes overblow just because it allows us to avoid facing a painful self.
This is the persona or identity of who we would like to be but is most often the furthest away from our true selves. It could be the vision of the person we would like to become yet so frequently becomes a mirror of what the media and modern society tell us we should be. We very often face a battle between the structural identities of our idealised selves that Freud wrote about: Id, Ego and Super-Ego. We can spend hours playing out these mental games without any discernable enjoyment or benefit as research is increasingly showing.
Many of the thoughts we have when we have the time and are not distracted by the mundane, are useless. They are often in service to the ego as mentioned but can be equally mindless as other distractions. Daydreaming for example is a pernicious type of mind wondering that research has started to show is either useless or even leads to unhappiness. Mostly it is the aimless flitting from one thought to the next characterised in Buddhism as the Monkey Mind.
In my doodle I have emotion as an offshoot of thought. I often find I have a thought and the emotion follows. If the thought is negative, the emotions that arise are negative. This flows into an ever downward spiral. I’m no psychologist and have no idea if this sequence is correct. This is just my observation. In the long term its as if continuous thought leads to a cementing of an emotion. It becomes ingrained, like a habit. At some point I feel like these habitual emotions start leading and effecting my thoughts. The key of course is to stop the cycle and mindfulness and meditation practice always does.
When I mediate and achieve that state of untrammeled calm I recognise a form of being that is pure. It’s a pretty beautiful state and feels authentic, not shrouded by any masks. It is also thoughtless and emotionless. But it doesnt mean that insights cannot arise. These insights are sensed. They don’t become articluated into thoughts until afterwards. It’s difficult to describe which is kind of the point. Our words are just a way to attach meaning to something. Most often we confuse and get things wrong by applying our cognitive biases.
In my best sessions I sense this state to be the true version of myself that is fully present and aware. A state of mindfulness that leaves me refresed and focused for the day. Over time I’ve become more attuned and closer to this state on a permanent basis. Every so often I achieve these breakthrough insights.