In today’s world, there are so many things which are constantly distracting us. And we know that being distracted can be detrimental to our creativity.
As a result, many people are trying to build up their internal ability to ignore distractions and be able to focus better in order to live a happier life.
One of the fastest growing ways to do this is meditation.
Meditation is a practice in which an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.
While meditation has existed for thousands of years in cultures across the world, it is gaining in popularity recently.
A 2018 report from the USA CDC showed that within the past 5 years, the total number of people who had tried meditation had more than tripled.
So the next question is: If people are feeling better and calmer due to this meditation, does it also have a positive impact on their creativity?
Interestingly, there has been research done on this topic.
The most important research on the topic comes from the 2012 research paper: Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking
In this paper, the researchers looked at two different ways of meditating and assessed their impact of participants’ ability to perform divergent and convergent thinking. While the sample size of 19 participants was quite small, it is the best research I have come across.
The two different ways of meditating represent the main techniques of Buddhist meditation practices:
- Focused Attention Meditation (FAM): the participant picks something to get their complete focus and attention, such as their breath. If any thoughts or bodily sensations come into their mind, they are to be actively ignored and focus forced back onto whatever they should be focusing on. Mind wandering should be suppressed. This can require deep concentration and the activation of the executive attention network.
- Open Monitoring Meditation (OMM): the participant is open to experience any thought or sensation without the need to fixate on anything specific. The aim is rather to stay in the monitoring state, remaining attentive to any experience that might arise, without selecting, judging, or focusing on any particular object. This is much more likely to lead to mind wandering, associated with original and divergent new creative ideas.
Indeed, the results of the research showed clearly that after OM meditation, participants performed better on divergent thinking creativity tests.
However, after FA meditation, they did not perform better on either divergent or convergent thinking tests.
This was thought be to since OM meditation allows you to accept any thoughts which come into your mind, it allows the ideas and thoughts in your mind to evolve and build upon one another, which is exactly the sort of skill required for divergent thinking creative tasks.
So if you are looking to use meditation to enhance your creativity, you should seek out a practice based on Open Monitoring Meditation rather than Focused Attention Meditation.
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