From Mindful Creativity

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.

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Stop, Look, Go: A Mindful Gratitude Practice from David Steindl-Rast

As I reflect upon my own mindful gratitude practice and gather resources to reboot my Mindful Gratitude workshop, I am continuing to explore the work of Brother David Steindl-Rast.  The “Stop. Look. Go.” practice is one of the new tools I found and wanted to share.  It is an informal practice that happens in the comings and goings of daily life and takes only a few minutes and some reflection.  Here are the three parts:

1.) Stop.  This alone is a quite valuable practice.  We live in a culture that is all productivity, rush and noise. Can we take a moment and be still? What benefits might we experience if we do?  In Steindl-Rast’s words, we need to create “stop signs” in our lives that create a pause and be still.

Take a moment and reflect: where might you create a stop sign in your own life?  What cue will you use as a reminder?

2.) Look.   Be curious about your own experience in this moment.  What do you see? Hear? Feel? For what can you experience a sense of gratitude? You don’t need to manufacture anything, and if something quite difficult is happening, there is no reason to try and change it. Perhaps you just remember that you are alive. That you are breathing. That there is no moment exactly like this moment.

3.) Go. What seed for action is this moment offering you? Living is an art that you create as you go. How can you make it beautiful for yourself? For others?  Ask yourself these questions and wait patiently for an answer. When you get one, do it, act on the insight that comes from your own intuition and reflection.

Need inspiration to start this practice?  Here is a beautiful video from gratefulness.org’s website.

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   Did happened when you took a moment to stop, look, go?  What did you find?  Please share your thoughts below.

There is Magic in the World: Mindful Play, Making Things, Anne Hamilton and the Columbus Art Museum

“For the record, woohoo! Not just art, but life- magic.” 

– Jandy Nelson, I’ll Give You the Sun

I am just learning how to play again; how to make life magical. How to find the silky seedlings in dried out pods while walking and then set them free in the wind one by one.

How to grab hand-fulls of leaves and smoosh them into my face before tossing them high into the air and watching them fall.

How to whisper stories to trees while I press my hand to the rough bark and listen for an answer. (See The Silent Friends video).

It is good learning.

This last week my husband Jamey and I took Sawyer (our five-year-old) to see the Lego exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art.

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Q and A from St. Francis DeSales Mindful Creativity Workshop

I hosted a Mindful Creativity Workshop for St. Francis DeSales High School staff a few weeks ago.  Here are some photos and a responses to questions teachers asked in the workshop.

How do we make those spaces in our brain happen more often? 

Brains are never going to be completely silent.  Their jobs are to think, so those thoughts will just keep coming.  I do find that my brain tells me fewer stories since I have been practicing for awhile, but what is more important than this is to “get distance” from thoughts. To know thoughts are not you.  You don’t have to believe them.  This will naturally create more “space” in our brains, because we won’t be feeding our thoughts as often.  We will see that they are simply passing through.

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Where Art and Science Intersect: Experimentation in Color

“Fundamentally, both art and science are about encounters with the real world — the one we live in and experience as colors, textures, shapes and sounds. Every artistic creation and every scientific study is a record of experimentation. At their best those experiments are rooted in two vital qualities: interest and attention…  Interest and attention allow us to live lives that are rich in meaning, lives that are passionate about noticing the everyday miracles right in front of us.”

-“Where Art and Science Meet, Exactly,” Adam Frank

My little Sawyer is a scientist.  He is an artist.  And he doesn’t have a problem with blending the two.  Hopefully his little world will stay creative like this forever.  Hopefully he never gets the message that we have to be one thing or the other.  Or really one of anything, totally.

A few weeks ago, he ordered a science kit online and one of the projects was to blend colored water in test tubes.  He sat in the bathtub and made his science project into an artistic expression- a temporary rainbow.

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Where do you find intersections between art and science in daily life? 

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Q and A from Teachers on Mindful Creativity

Last week I worked with some amazingly creative and engaged teachers from a variety of backgrounds facilitating a workshop on mindful creativity.  The Q and A below is a result of questions from participants left on exit tickets, followed by my responses.  

  • Why “mindfulness”?  Any special reason for picking that word?

This is a really good question that gave me pause.  I looked up the root of the word and came upon this document published by the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine. In short: mindfulness itself simply means intentional awareness to the moment, which is innately human and certainly not new. The formal practice of mindfulness has its root in Buddhism, and according to this article by Siegel, Germer, and Olendzki: 

“‘Mindfulness,’ as used in ancient texts, is an English translation of the Pali word, sati, which connotes awareness, attention, and remembering. (Pali is the language in which the teachings of the Buddha were originally recorded. The first dictionary translation of sati into “mindfulness” dates to 1921 (Davids & Stede, 1921/2001).”

  • What is the difference between mindfulness and self-consciousness?

Mindfulness is about cultivating present-moment awareness and self-compassion. Self-consiousness does not necessarily equate to either of these outcomes. One can be aware of one’s self, particularly as viewed through the eyes of others or through the critical self, in ways that are neither objectively aware or self-compassionate.  In addition, while mindfulness may create space or distance from thoughts, self-consciousness alone may increase one’s engagement with thoughts, particularly those about the self.     

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