Encouraging mindfulness during creative endeavors.
Welcoming mindfulness into artistic projects is a fun way to incorporate curiosity and creativity into our daily life. Many of us have seen the extreme concentration of children when they are fully engaged in an artistic project: drawing, coloring, finger painting, or writing a story. Their whole body is engaged. I remember my daughter would stick her tongue out when focused on a project and when I saw that I knew she was in her creative zone.
I am a life-long creative and always have an artistic project in the works. Knitting, crocheting, sewing, cooking, and writing fill my heart with a joyful calm. The mind is focused, the heart is connected and I know this is a special time. Recently, I began guiding monthly Meditative Creations classes. We use the power of mindfulness to enhance focus and curiosity. Whether it is coloring a mandala, free-drawing, knitting, or journaling, mindfulness awakens what is happening inside and out. Using mindfulness, we pay close attention and use the five senses as a way to invite curiosity.
In an article entitled Mindfulness and Creativity published in the Canadian Teacher Magazine, Peggy Bochun quotes Harvard neuroscientist, Dr. Daniel Siegel. “Mindfulness helps fine-tune brain connections and creates integration by developing new neural pathways.” When we incorporate mindfulness into creative activities, the brain can focus intently on what is being created and we are able to integrate “the whole of the body, both hemispheres of the brain, and memory” which develops new ways of engaging with the project.
For example, when we are drawing, mindfulness helps bring full attention to the hand-eye activity. The mind is in the background as we focus intently on what the hands are doing. We notice the colors, the texture, the feeling of the instruments in the hand, and the sound of drawing on paper. When knitting or crocheting, we bring full attention to the movement of the needles or hook and the sensation of the yarn in the fingers and hands. The sense of smell can be used to notice the odor of colored markers or pencils as we draw or paint designs. The eyes are engaged as we pay attention to the colors of our creation as well as the rhythmic pattern of the activity. Periodically, we may stop, breathe, and notice our whole body in space playing a role in channeling creativity.
The following is a group activity and each person has their own project to work on. The practice requires a leader who guides everyone through the five senses as well as inviting moments of silence.
Meditative Creations Practice
We begin by describing to each other what we are creating. Just a simple sharing of the project. “I’m drawing a picture. I’m coloring a mandala. I’m knitting a scarf, etc.”
We begin by noticing our body and our breath. Taking a few slow, deep breaths in the nose and out the mouth, we allow the body and the nervous system to calm down. This helps us to be ready to focus on our project.
The leader will then invite everyone to bring mindfulness through the five senses by asking the following phrases and encouraging participants to reply silently to themselves. This practice requires silence and individual attention. (If helpful, background acoustic music can be played).
What do you see? The eyes are needed to direct what you’re doing.
What do you feel with your fingers? The sense of touch is a central part of your project. Do you feel the pencil, marker, hook, needle, etc? Is the instrument hard, smooth, sharp, or dull?
What do you hear? Is the pencil or marker making a sound as it draws or colors on the paper? Do the needles make a clicking sound? What sound does your project make?
What do you smell? Is there a smell to the project or materials you’re using? Or is there a scent in the environment where we are all creating?
What do you taste? Sometimes smell and taste are closely related and if there is a smell to the project or environment, it may bring up a taste or remind us of a past activity.
When done, we put down our projects, close our eyes, take a few deep breaths, notice our body in space and then open the eyes and look closely at what we’ve created. The leader may choose to ask participants what they notice about their project or whether there are thoughts and realizations that have come up as a result of doing this meditative creation practice.