I read an article recently citing new research that shows
as little as six minutes of mindful activity before a class or test can improve retention and test scores. A few moments of mindfulness can benefit us in so many other ways as well. Indeed, if we just take a little time to slow down, relax and focus, we can do just about anything that requires attention better.
I find this is especially important when diving into creative work. In fact, my favorite part of the creative process is when I am able to achieve a state of creative flow--when I'm totally immersed in the work and oblivious to everything else in my life. But how do we pull that off when there is so much going on around
us? Between work demands, families that need our attention, the constant
barrage of media and electronic communication, traffic jams and lengthy to-do
lists, it can be a real challenge to unwind and focus on just one thing with
intensity. Yet, there are several simple acts we can take to help facilitate
this process. Here are a few:
WRITE IT DOWN. One of the quickest and easiest is to simply
grab a pen and paper and write down
what’s on your mind—a quick, short list of the things that are important
and demanding your attention. Now then, fold the paper and tuck it in a pocket
or some other place for safekeeping. When you are done with your creative work,
your list will be there waiting for you. You don’ t have to worry about
forgetting a thing.
VISUALIZATION. Sit comfortably and quietly, upright and with
your hands placed loosely on your thighs or in your lap. Gently close your
eyes, relax your facial muscles, and take a few moments to become aware of your
breathing. If you can do so comfortably, begin to lengthen your breath slightly—keeping
the exhale longer than the inhale. Do not push the breath. As you focus on your
breathing, it is normal for thoughts to cross your mind. As they do,
acknowledge them and then consciously let them go. Try doing this visually—for
instance, picturing these thoughts on a raft floating out to sea or sprouting
wings and flying away. Once you begin to relax, slowly return to your normal
breath, open your eyes, and turn your focus to your creative work.
RELAXATION. Try a
short yoga session--perhaps six minutes in a restorative pose or one or two poses done repetitively. I especially like cat pose for this. A short meditation--just sitting and focusing on your breath, a candle or a mantra--is ideal. And if you're feeling tired, why not take a short nap?
GO FOR A WALK. A walk around the block, in the park or simply through my own garden is a simple and easy way to shift my mindset. The fresh air, change of scenery, movement and connection with nature all have benefits.
REPETITIVE ACT. Simple, brainless, repetitive act such as sweeping, watering plants, pulling weeds or washing a few dishes by hand can do wonders to clear the mind.
Devoting even a few minutes to mindfulness and letting go
can help make your creative endeavor more enjoyable and productive.