Nurturing a daily creative mindfulness practice

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Creating mindfully every day

The wonderful thing about 30 Day Challenges is that they get us motivated, encouraged and determined to practice every day. But what happens when the 30 days are over? Do we: 

  1. Drop everything instantly and go back to life as normal?
  2. Or do we continue to practice daily for a while, and then find ourselves losing momentum and enthusiasm until our practice peters out?
  3. Or do we manage - somehow, we're not sure how - to keep it going, most days for ... well, the rest of our lives?

I think the second scenario, despite best intentions, is probably the most common - so this blog is all about how to make scenario number 3 more likely to happen.

Practical steps for keeping the momentum going 

These are the five most helpful, practical things that have enabled me to maintain a consistent daily creative and mindfulness practice over two decades. 

  1. Find a time in your day that works best for you and then stick to it as much as possible. Of course days vary, and sometimes it's just not possible to practice at the same time, or maybe not at all. If that's the case slot it in later, or just be kind to yourself and come back at the same time tomorrow. Identifying the mornings (despite the fact I'm not a morning person in the slightest) as the time my brain was least occupied with other stuff and then shifting my on-off evening meditation practice to first thing in the day, was the single most important step I ever took. Find a time in your day when you naturally feel most clear and undistracted, and put a little mindful fence around it as your time to practice.
  2. Just a little every day. Let's be practical, and let's be realistic. Rather than creating grand plans for one hour every day - commit to a short period of daily practice. 10 mindful minutes, for example, is do-able most days. 10 minutes isn't scary. 10 minutes won't put any pressure on you. And once you've started 10 minutes will fly by and often turn into 20! And the benefits of 10 minutes every day are enormous, accumulative, and transformative.
  3. Do what feels natural and enjoyable. If you're drawn to mindful drawing, do that. If you're feeling in the mood for some mindful photography, go for it. Mindful writing calling you? Answer the call. Keep your practice fresh and invigorated and full of enthusiasm by following your passion. Yes, we need discipline (and there's no denying it) but I've found that one gram of enthusiasm has a far more motivating effect than a kilogram of discipline! Keep that attitude of beginner's mind to help cultivate curiosity and enthusiasm even with practices you do every day.
  4. Buddy-up! We need community, fellowship, sangha, like-minds and kindred-spirits to help us stay enthused and to re-inspire us. It's so much easier meditating in a room of people than alone at home. It's so much more fun creating with others. We really can't do this in isolation. Find creative mindfulness friends (you can join the Stop Look Breathe Create Facebook Group here.) And then hang-out, drink tea, meditate, make art, share, talk, discuss, support, encourage and inspire the hell out of each other.
  5. Refresh yourself often and gather new inspiration. How should you do that? It's up to you. Here are some things that keep me constantly re-inspired: art books, art exhibitions, nature, literature, dharma, trying a new art material or tool, and lots of Stop Look Breathe Create walks. Make a list of the things that will feed your daily practice, and make time to do them regularly.

What to do beyond the 30 Day Challenge - specific ideas for projects and practice

Next up, here are some more concrete ideas of projects you can do, and Art of Mindfulness resources you can draw upon beyond the 30 days.

  1. Sign up for the FREE 3 Challenge, a 3 week mindful art course that includes mindful photography and writing as well as drawing. Lots of guided meditations and tutorials on MP3 specially designed to help you develop the habit of daily creativity and mindfulness.
  2. My Mindfulness & The Art of Drawing book is full of advice on how to take your practice deeper, and includes lots of practical mindful drawing exercises.
  3. There are more FREE guided meditations and podcasts on my SoundCloud.
  4. Sign up for my eNews and follow my Blog. I'm constantly creating new FREE resources and writing more on ways to practice. These are the best ways to access these and keep your practice topped-up.
  5. My Stop Look Breathe Create book has 10 themed projects and 30 activities in drawing, photography and writing. If you did one of these a month, it'd see you through until the end of the year!
  6. Finally, why not create your own challenge? Set yourself some daily or weekly prompts, perhaps based on the most interesting things that came out of the January challenge for you. Or why not use the same 31 prompts you just used for drawing to do a project in mindful photography or mindful writing too? (The 3 Challenge will offer you guided meditations and tutorials to support these - as will the Stop Look Breathe Create book.)

Showing your support

I've been so inspired by the incredible support the Art of Mindfulness community has shown each other during the 30 Day Challenge - both on Instagram using the #stoplookbreathecreate hashtag, and in the Stop Look Breathe Create Facebook Group. I've also been very touched and encouraged by the support you've shown me, with so many comments and messages telling me how much this has transformed your mindfulness practice and ignited your creative spirit. 

If you'd like to show your support of the work I do, then there are some simple ways that you can do this that I would deeply appreciate. A bow of gratitude in advance to you and I look forward to sharing more mindful creativity with you way beyond the days of the 30 Day Challenge.

  1. Buy a book. Both Mindfulness & the Art of Drawing and Stop Look Breathe Create are available in bookshops all over the world and online too (the former now has a Spanish language edition too). If you buy a book, this sends a message to my publishers that people really want them, and so they'll be more likely to commission more. Royalties from book sales help to support me financially, so I can spend more time creating more resources for you. 
  2. Review a book. If you buy a copy, or if you already have a copy sitting with you at home, please do take just a few minutes to write a short review for Goodreads, Amazon or on the website you bought from. You may not realise it, but 5 star reviews make a huge difference in raising a book's online profile, making it come up tops in online searches, and encouraging new people to take a chance on an author they don't know. 
  3. Tell your friends. If you've had a great experience drawing mindfully with me online or loved one of my books, then please do shout about it face to face over a coffee, online, or in your social media groups! A little post on your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with a link to my profile or my website would be a great way to spread the word to more like-minded folk. Below I've created three short posts about mindful drawing month with all the right links, hashtags and tags - in case you'd rather copy and paste than have to think something up from scratch yourself. (It can be a bit like writing postcards on holiday, can't it - sudden blank?) Personalise any way you want to or write your own! My thanks again.

Facebook:

I'm just finishing the #stoplookbreathecreate Mindful Drawing 30 Day Challenge with @Wendy Ann Greenhalgh - Art of Mindfulness It's been amazing. Here's one of my drawings. And you can join the Facebook group here and see what we've all been up to - https://www.facebook.com/groups/stoplookbreathecreate...

Instagram

I've just taken part in the #stoplookbreathecreate #Mindful #Drawing #30daychallenge with @artofmindfulness and it was amazing. Here's one of my drawings... The prompts are still up on her profile if you want to join in too.

Twitter:

I've just taken part in the #stoplookbreathecreate #Mindful #Drawing #30daychallenge with @_wendyann and it was amazing. Here's one of my drawings...