I started cultivating a meditation habit many years ago. I have always found it difficult to do regularly and I’ve started and stopped many times. But since Covid-19 hit, I realized that it is something that has not only kept me in a fairly good emotional state, but has also helped me continue to make art and enjoy creating. Because of this, I now often make the effort to meditate, I integrate meditation into my art practice (and even into one of the art classes I teach), and consider it part of my process.
Below are the ways I found that meditation can be used as a tool to enjoy art activities even more, to generate new ideas, to be playful and explore, and carry on moving forward even when it’s difficult to see the path ahead.
1. Meditation is a warm up exercise
During those days when I’m not feeling great, I know that even a short time in my studio making art will lift my spirits. But even then, it’s sometimes hard to begin. This is when I discovered that if I do a short 5–10 minute meditation, it makes it easier to start pulling out my art materials and get going.
Much like how a ballet dancer stretches before a performance, how an athlete warms up before practice, or how musicians do scales, I use meditation to gear up for an art session. It helps me set aside what might have happened before the session, like feelings of annoyance with a brutal commute earlier that day or a heated discourse with a co-worker, for example. It also helps me set aside that constant to do list that is running through my busy mind. I find that meditation allows me to let go of those things for a little while so I can feel lighter and thus better focus on art.
2. Meditation helps dissipate fear
When I sit in meditation, I sit alone with myself. I get to know myself more and get comfortable with who I really am. When I am more aware of myself I am better able to trust myself and follow my intuition to make decisions in my art. That way I am less scared to try different techniques, new colour combinations, or to use my art supplies in a novel way, etc. In listening to my true self, I am better able to deal with fears that might be holding me back, and better able quiet the inner critic (or at least keep it muffled) for a bit.
3. Meditation can open the mind to new ideas and helps generate ideas
If I add an element of visualization to my meditation it can be especially useful when starting a new piece of art or staring at a blank canvas. It allows me to open myself up to find creative solutions to problems. When I meditate there is a relaxing both of the body and of the mind. I release some things that I have been paying attention to for a little while. I am able to put away that constant chatter and stream of thoughts that continue to play in my subconscious during the session. With the letting go I am able to free up some space in my mind that often allows new designs, plans or schemes to come in.
4. Meditation encourages kindness to oneself
Meditation reminds me that I am human and that sometimes I need to be kinder to myself. It allows me to remember the need to take care of the artist within me, to nurture it and to be understanding that I am not perfect and therefore cannot do things perfectly, or even well, in the first few tries. I find that with art and creating, I do better with benign encouragement rather than the drill sergeant berating voice that is often the dominant communication style that is in my head. Meditation for me is more like a persuasive nudge, that reminds me about my goals and guides me along the way. I respond better to the gentle direction versus the drill sergeant voice which I tend to rebel against.
5. Meditation breeds hope
Frustration can sometimes (often) occur when making art. As an emerging artist, I admit that many times feel that I am doomed to be poor, go crazy then cut off my ear, and be unsuccessful and only be recognized after I am dead. Meditation helps ground me and puts things into perspective. It reminds me of the successes I do have and helps me to stay calm enough to figure out how to work through missteps I take. It urges me towards developing a growth mindset, moves me forward and helps to focus me on my goals despite challenges.
Perhaps meditation will work for you as it has for me, I think it’s at least worth a try!
If you’ve never meditated before and don’t know where or how to start, there are many free videos online that can get you on your way. Or you may choose to download an app instead. Two of the more popular ones out there are called Calm and Headspace. I have not tried Calm but I have used Headspace and find it is excellent in explaining what meditation is and what it does to your brain. It reminds you to meditate with alerts (if you want them), has a section to help you sleep better at night, and even has a moving meditation with exercises if you wish.