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?
Does it get easier to be mindful? How will I know when I grow?
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.
Did happened when you took a moment to stop, look, go? What did you find? Please share your thoughts below.
“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.
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.
Opening the first page of a new notebook,
blank space soon to be filled
beginning again, pen to paper,
poised to fill the pages
“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.
Where do you find intersections between art and science in daily life?
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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.
Finding unexpected art in an alleyway,
wondering about the person whose hands held the brush.
Connecting with nature,
feeling the life under rough bark and soft moss,
I am hosting a workshop at the Wexner Center for the Arts for Capital (or COTA) day on October 16 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. called Mindful Creativity which is FREE and open to ALL teachers!
Here is a blurb about it from the Wexner Center website:
What does it mean to be “present”—to notice the colors and textures of our everyday surroundings? How does this “presence” apply to one’s process as an artist, a writer, a thinker, or an explorer of the world? Answering these questions and more will be the focus of this year’s Capital Day, Mindful Creativity. Learn how mindfulness works and what it looks like in practice. Investigate creativity through this lens to explore the world of art and artistry together using the exhibition After Picasso: 80 Contemporary Artists as inspiration. Consider ways that you can take this new knowledge to your students to enhance their own presence in the world and their abilities as explorers and artists. Come prepared to write, discuss, reflect, and practice mindfulness strategies.
You can register for the workshop on the Wexner Center website at this link. There is a gray box in the top right corner that says “register.”
This week I worked with students in the Mosaic program with Kim Leddy and Steve Shapiro. We wanted to provide students with an introduction to mindfulness and mindful creativity while also introducing the themes of transformation, identity and change.
Before I came into the classroom, Kim and Steve had used a variation on this mindfulness lesson (originally for teachers and staff) to introduce neuroplasticity and mindfulness to students. In the lesson, they also had students write metaphors for their brains. Student responses ranged from “a runaway train” to “Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.”
This lesson prepared students by providing opportunities to think about what their brain is like now, and what they might want it to be like in the future with the understanding that they can make changes with focused attention. It was a great lead in to some creative, messy work.