Mindfulness and Creativity: Q and A with the Columbus Museum of Art Teaching for Creativity Institute

What does mindfulness have to do with creativity?  So much.  Check out this Q and A with CMA‘s Teaching for Creativity Institute from an event I did on January 21 on mindfulness and self-care to find out more.

How does mindfulness assist in the creative process?  

Creativity is an inherent aspect of the human condition. However, our mindsets, beliefs and self-talk can create obstacles to accessing it.  Mindfulness cultivates ways of thinking and being that can counteract these obstacles.
To use an example, I facilitate an activity where I ask participants to make their brains out of Play-Doh in either an abstract or a figurative interpretation.  They are then asked to explain their brain in a small group discussion.  Afterward, each person reflects independently on the sensations, thoughts, and feelings experienced during the activity.
When we share our reflections, I most commonly hear people say things like:
•   “I was nervous because I didn’t know if I was doing it right.”
•   “I compared my brain to other people’s, and I felt like mine wasn’t as good.”
•   “I was worried about sharing my brain because I didn’t know if others were going to judge me.”
This type of limiting self-talk is automatic for many of us.  Feeling as if there is a right way to do things, comparing with others, and worrying about how we might be judged are all obstacles to our creativity. Mindfulness is a way to distance ourselves enough from these self-limiting beliefs to engage and share safely what is within.
For more on the connection between mindfulness and creativity, check out the Mindful Creativity page on my site.

Does it get easier to be mindful?  How will I know when I grow?  

It does get easier…  sometimes.  Our brains naturally wander, and formal mindfulness practice is one way to “train” our brains to not do this as often.  I have had my own mindfulness practice for a couple of years, and I have seen many very positive results in my life, but there are still times when I am triggered and engage in rumination, negative self-talk etc.  It just happens with less frequency.
There is no clear cut timeline for when and how each individual person will grow and how.  Many research-based programs are eight weeks of daily practice, and there are documented results that this will create some brain change.   At the same time, each person has their own disposition.  Some people are naturally more mindful than others, too.
On a personal note, I was not one of those “mindful” people before I started this journey.  My brain had a lot of stories, there was a lot of rumination, I often disappeared into my own world and noticed little around me.  Change may have happened slower for me because of this.  However, I also needed the practice a lot more, which gave me the impetus to continue.  There are negatives and positives to every situation.
You can know your own growth by keeping track of your day-to-day life.  When I first started my practice, I journaled after every sitting and noted how I was feeling in that moment, how that day had been for me emotionally, and times when I had experienced moments of mindfulness (or lack thereof).  This created a way for me to look back and see that, yes, I was in fact making progress.
Change research shows noting small successes can help us to continue.  They give us hope.  I think the journaling helped me with this.

How can I share this with others, students, staff, leadership etc.?  

Teachers are, generally, compassionate and giving.  When they see something that works and has value, they want to share it with everyone.  This is am amazing quality, but sometimes it also prevents us from taking care of ourselves.  My first suggestion is to keep developing your own mindfulness practice, noticing how it changes you, acting through those changes.  When you engage in this way, you then have an authentic place from which to speak.

Do you provide workshops in school districts? 

Yes.  I do.  Through Learning Lab Consulting, I contract to do work within school districts and other organizations.  You can learn more about what this might look like through my Services and Testimonials page.
Have an idea?  Shoot me an email directly at brandi@learninglabconsulting.com or send me a message through my Connect with Me form.

How do you prepare to lead these workshops?

My first preparation comes from my own mindfulness practice and from engaging in the other practices I teach.  I also try to stay up-to-date with the latest research, reading new studies and briefings about the topics I teach.  For example, two of the reports I used in this specific workshop, Teacher Stress and Health: Effects on Teachers, Students and Schools and The Mindful Leader: Research Findings, came out in September and November of 2016 respectively.
I also spent two years of my life researching and thinking about the ways people learn as an instructional coach.  I love brain-based learning, teaching to the whole person, and assessing skills as opposed to knowledge.  All of this perspective informs the ways I structure activities for the groups I teach, and I am always refining them.
Lastly, I am lucky in that I get a lot of feedback from participants on ways to improve, tweak and innovate the workshops I do. I take great advantage of this and learn much from the people with whom I work, making changes as I go.

Where can I learn more?

I am super-transparent with sharing resources.  If you check out Mindfulness- A Super Power: Q and A with Grandview Heights (which has a step-by-step for a breath-focused practice), you will find MANY resources for starting a mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness and creativity

Questions?  Comments? Reflections?  Please share!

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