Julyan Davey
Musings on Life, Philosophy and Technology

Exploring Creative Meditation

In the last few days I have been delving deeply into the question of creativity.

Questions like:

Where does an idea come from and how is it developed?

Is there a difference between creativity in music and the arts and the innovation of intellectual ideas and inventions?

In this post I would like to define my thinking on these issues and shine some light on how you can bring creativity into your life.

Benefits of Creativity

The act of being creative has huge cathartic benefit; it allows you to access the inner nature of your being in a way that cannot be achieved in normal “efficient” day to day life. Myriad artists and musicians have discovered that pent up angst and anxiety can be released, just by picking up a paint brush. Also, as humans we strive to feel connected to the rest of the world and creativity is the means by which our consciousness can have an impact upon life itself.

Where does creativity come from?

I’ve discussed this topic with a few friends who have described creativity as coming from within, whilst at the same time being a process where something completely new is created. I have grappled with this idea and come to the following simple conclusion over the origins of creativity.

To explain creativity, I think we need to discuss the nature of the mind. After observing my mind during meditation, I have begun to consider the mind as a network of nodes. This model of the mind fits incredibly well with the neural pathways that we know exist in the brain. So an idea such as the concept of the colour blue is a node in the brain, with pathways to many other nodes. These connected nodes are likely to be concepts that we associate with the colour blue, such as the sea. The sea node may itself be connected to a node for the memory of a childhood fishing trip. Which could itself be connected to nodes for the emotions that were felt at the time or the relationship with the people on the trip.

I must make it clear, that I’m not suggesting that these nodes actually exist in the brain; just that this model seems to fit very well with my own personal mind experience. However, it is quite possible that an equivalent scientific understanding of a node could be the firing of a distinct group of neurons in the brain.

So, if we assume this nodal model of the brain is somewhat equivalent to reality, what does this mean for creativity? For me, creativity seems to involve finding a connection between two unrelated or weakly connected nodes.

This Steve Jobs quote really embodies this idea:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. Steve Jobs

Creativity as Connection

One example of such a connection was the conceptual view of the big bang developed by Stephen Hawking. He managed to link the common idea, amongst physicists, of how black holes form and develop; with a conception of the big bang and the universe as a whole. This linkage was the key discovery, that he would then go on to spend years developing. That connection between two concepts was the creativity, and what developed after, was purely the acadmic product of this initial breakthrough.

Given this understanding of creativity, I considered whether it could also apply to other artistic endeavours. For a while, I was stumped by how musical creativity could be examined in this manner. But then I was discussing this topic with a friend who plays guitar, who explained how this model could also apply to music. On a conceptual level music could have a relationship to real world thoughts and feelings; this relationship reflects the same creative process discussed earlier. But a more simple explanation is that over a lifetime of listening to music, certain sounds or sequences of notes or chords develop themselves as nodes in the brain. These nodes become accessible by your subconcious and so musical creativity can be defined as finding a linkage between these musical nodes.

Creative Meditation

I have already mentioned how being creative can bring huge positives to life. But how can this creativity be encouraged and developed? I have discovered a process, that I’m going to call creative meditation, that achieves this. Creative meditation can be performed in several ways and is still very much a work in progress. My first experience of this method was whilst walking home, by myself, from a train on the coldest of nights. I was rushing to get back to the warmth but my mind was racing. I realised that simply through observing the world I could be creative. I would see signs, faces, posters and all manner of physical objects. Upon seeing one of these objects, I would immediately visualise the associations or links that my brain would naturally make. If, for example, I saw a girl in a red coat, my brain would instantly be drawn to the story of red riding hood. But the links I was making began to become more complex. I saw a red stop sign and my brain was instantly drawn to a childhood experience.

My first encounter with this form of free association was fascinating by itself, as it allowed me to discover the connections that my brain was naturally drawing. The importance of certain childhood events was particularly interesting. But I also believe this could develop into a legitimate mechanism for creative thinking. Surely, the more one practices this creative meditation, of making linkages between different objects or concepts, then when we try to be creative in our work or art, it should come far more naturally. By simply not preventing your brain from making these natural connects, a whole world of possibility abounds!