Mindfulness + Creativity

In eternity there is indeed something true and sublime.  But all these times and places and occasions are now and here. ” ~Thoreau

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.   This kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of present-moment reality.”  ~Kabat- Zinn

Mindfulness has been all over the place lately, hasn’t it?  And for good reason!  Plenty of studies have shown mindfulness to be helpful for the immune system, stress reduction, improving memory and attention, reducing ruminating thoughts and more.  Greater Good, out of UC Berkeley does a nice job outlining some of the research.


If you’re like me, mindfulness sounds like something I’d really love to do…when I have the time.  Oy!  You know what though?  There’s nothing super-duper special about being mindful.  There are no pre-requisites to practice.  One way to get started is to practice mindfulness by taking each moment as it comes—pleasant, unpleasant, good, bad, ugly…  Ok, you’re right—easier said than done.   It can be a challenge, when the mind is racing, or you’re feeling stuck in some way.   But it’s worth the practice, I promise.  Here’s why:

Imagine 2 people sitting by a river, one is watching the river flow, wishing that it would stop flowing. The other just notices the flow of the water and experiences the river as it is.  Which one is having a bummer day?  The river flows whether we like it or not, our internal resistance doesn’t change anything.

TANGENT ALERT: That reminds me of that Carly Simon song  Let the River Run remember, from Working Girl?  I love that movie.  Maybe we can get a new mindfulness motto out of this:  Mindfulness: It’s Asking for the Taking

I’m going to give you a suggestion for a creative way to engage in mindfulness that I think you’ll enjoy.  And remember, this is not meant to be another task that you are doing because ”it’s good for you”, or to achieve a particular goal or outcome…and it’s not something you have to be perfect at!  Not what we’re going for here.

First, pay attention to your BREATHING:
Sit upright and comfy, imagine your awareness sinking down into your abdomen, then notice the gentle rising and falling of diaphragm…with each breath letting the body breathe as it needs to…your awareness resting on the breath without struggling or forcing…feeling the breath come into the body and feeling it leave…and when mind wanders, gently bringing your attention back to the breath.You can do this for as long as you want, and that can be your whole practice!  It’s always a good idea to start with your breathing.  Now, you can add some creative arts!

Art and the creative process support mindfulness practice, and mindfulness practice supports the creative process.  Isn’t that awesome?

Tap into your Inner Kid!!  You’ll need paper and drawing supplies!

Have you ever watched a child in discovery-mode?  They are delighted by their senses, engaged in the world around them, and ready to create!  The beauty of a child seeing the world in this way is so close to practicing mindfulness.  We can get this sensibility back!


Cultivate your child-like awareness by:

1.) activating all your senses—what sounds do you hear right now?  What is in your immediate vision?  How about smells or tastes (have some chocolate!).  Notice how your body feels right now, and how you are standing, sitting, what you are touching, etc.  We tend to move through life without noticing the moment.  Children are acutely aware of the wonder of their senses.

2.) allowing yourself to experience the wonder and awe of color, line, texture just for the sake of creating….letting go of judgment and the inner critic that allows you to believe such oldies and goodies as  “I can’t draw…”  WHO said THAT to you??  Not true!

3.) PLAYING!   Use the art materials to create a drawing of your “here and now experience”.  Try using your non-dominant hand or drawing with your eyes closed!This can really help you to let go!  The Vietnamese Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh said  “Usually we think that if we let go, we will lose the things that make us happy.  But the more we let go, the happier we become.”

Drawing with the non-dominant hand or with your eyes closed can feel…vulnerable.  Therefore, it is ultimately freeing!  We tend to put a lot of limitations on ourselves when pursuing art and creativity.  This experience is meant to challenge some of those limitations! Let me know how it goes!!  And stay tuned for some more Mindfulness+Creativity suggestions in future posts!