How can we be more mindful of our thoughts when we meditate? Perhaps one of our most common preconceptions about mindfulness meditation, is that somehow our heads will become an oasis of stillness, calm and tranquility, rather than the over active, preoccupied or even anxious things they often are. What we soon realise is that mindfulness practice doesn't stop us from thinking, but instead offers us a new way of relating to our thoughts.
This is a recording of a Live Facebook Stream to the Art of Mindfulness community to celebrate the launch of my new Stop Look Breathe Create book. For the drawing activity you will need:
1) A pen or pencil and paper 2) Some things to draw which have interesting textures and shapes. E.G. Shells, seedpods, stones, a hairbrush, cheese grater, or house-plant. This is a one hour creative mindfulness class: 15 minute introductory meditation; 10 minute talk about mindful creativity and the Stop Look Breathe Create creative mindfulness practice; 20 minutes of guided mindful drawing activities; 10 minutes Q and A.
This month features Wendy Ann Greenhalgh. Wendy Ann is a writer, artist and creative mindfulness teacher. She has been practising mindfulness meditation for twenty years and has worked with hundreds of people, helping them to rediscover their natural capacity for creativity and mindfulness. Wendy Ann is the author of Mindfulness and the Art of Drawing (Published by Leaping Hare Press) and teaches with the Mindfulness Project in London. She blogs on creativity and mindfulness here and shares her own creative mindfulness practice on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For more information about Wendy Ann, visit here.
Mindfulness is one of the most radical things we can do in our lives because in practicing it we open to all the guilty, fearful, hidden places within ourselves and gently allow ourselves to experience them, letting whatever it *is* just be as it is – in the moment. It’s radical, because in the open space of mindfulness nothing need be hidden, ashamed, belittled or judged. It is radical because it transcends boundaries and barriers of gender, race, religion, age and sexuality. It is radical because it isn’t done to gain approval, assert power or pretend wisdom. It is radical because it’s done for no other reason than to know ourselves better, accept ourselves better, to become intimate and friendly with every experience we can possibly experience. And in doing so, we are so much more able to do that for those around us too.
Creative minds are amazing, they’re always assessing, viewing, processing and problem solving. Creative and imaginative, they have an extraordinary capacity for lateral thinking too, for wild intuitive leaps that defy logic. But those same creative minds also have a tendency to go into overdrive. Fueled by creative inspiration, their neural networks and synaptic relays keep on firing even when they haven’t got a painting, poem or film to work on. Often the hard thing isn’t getting them going, but getting them to stop.
As we develop our practice of mindfulness, we start to notice that much of our emotional landscape is habitual, we take that path towards a certain feeling again and again. So too, thoughts, the same one, over and over. One of the great gifts of mindfulness is the space it offers to notice familiar currents of thinking or feeling and change them
Our minds are natural story-makers, they’re constantly creating; not just fiction, poetry, Facebook posts and blogs, but also tales about our pasts and about our futures; fables about why we’re not good enough, smart enough, could have done better; myths about our relationships, our talent (or lack of it), our fortune or misfortune. We have world-class imaginations, fantasising and daydreaming we excel at. But here’s the important thing to remember… it’s ALL fiction! Nothing that goes on in our heads is real. It’s just thoughts. Mindfulness helps us to wake up to this fact and it’s a liberation. Why? Because then you get to choose the stories, you get to select which tape you play.
The aim of mindfulness is to wake up, to come into the present moment, to see the thoughts in the mind as concepts or stories or holograms rather than realities. In this sense, mindfulness is the opposite of the mind-set we associate with most of the time. Of course, when we are completely focused on our creating, in the flow, we are totally present, but this kind of presence is still quite different from the clear awake presence that allows us to just directly experience reality without thinking, imagining, or conceptualising – instead encountering life through simply being.
Sometimes, by the end of a writing day, I can feel like I’m nothing more than a brain that thinks, a pair of eyes (overly large) that stare at a screen, and two sets of fingers – glued to a keyboard. I get the image of some lamp-eyed creature, a writing lemur, perhaps, with prehensile fingers splayed over keys. If it’s been a particularly intensive session, then those fingers can be quite sore and achy too. Yes, like many writers, I suffer from RSI. And yes, like many writers, I can get so caught up in my writing that I forget that I have a body and not just a mind that writes. So how can mindfulness help writing bodies?