Exploring Meditation and Creativity
In August 2015, 26 artists, from 18 different countries, gathered on Koh Yao Noi island in Southern Thailand.They took part in 10 days of meditation and artistic creation at the second artistic meditation retreat held by Peace Revolution, comanaged by Jo Holland and myself, Matt Witt.
The mission was to explore the relationship and links between meditation and creativity... Is there a link? How can meditation benefit an artist? How can we harness the power of meditation to improve our creative output? Some might describe this as vastly unexplored territory, and the brave artists at this year’s artistic meditation retreat are some of the first pioneering adventurers,risking it all to delve into their psyche in search of a deeper understanding of themselves and their art.
The following article aims to provide some insight into the benefits of an artistic meditation retreat from my own experience as a participant on the first retreat and my observations of following the participants whilst co-managing the second retreat.
I found that the Artistic Meditation Retreat is one long lesson in letting go. Letting go of expectations, letting go of habits,routines and behavioural structures, letting go of preconceived ideas, letting go of your life before the retreat and giving yourself to the moment. The here and the now.
When I arrived at the first artistic meditation retreat, I had so many expectations about what would happen, what I might create, the space and time I would have to cultivate inner peace and work on creative ideas. As soon as I arrived it was clear that all my expectations were to be inaccurate. In the first few days of the retreat I had to drastically re-adjust my outlook and how I was to approach working in this strange environment, surrounded by all these strange people. I found myself creatively stuck, overwhelmed and uninspired, I had to do some serious letting go!
So, I decided to do the opposite of what I thought I was there to do, I stopped trying to create altogether, I took a day off, I gave myself fully to meditation, I walked around the retreat site,soaking up the nature, visiting all the other artists, interacting and learning about their work and personalities. As I continued this journey I quickly began to realise that by involving myself in the experience of the other artists, and closely observing the environment, I was becoming more and more inspired by these intimate moments. Eventually I realised that I found greater inspiration through engaging and interacting rather than isolation and detachment. This is a lesson I have continued to apply to my life since attending the retreat.
Great ideas don’t always appear from nowhere, in most cases inspiration requires persistence, consistency and perseverance.Meditation can lead to greater amounts of patience by helping to cultivate, sustain and master these qualities, turning them into good habits that can then be applied outwardly to creative work.
Meditation helps to develop positive habits and discipline which can help us to be more patient in life, in work, with others, and most importantly with ourselves. This is an invaluable tool that can help you to overcome thoughts and actions that are not conducive to being creatively productive.
The more we meditate the more equipped we become to overcome those distractions and temptations. So now when we hear those familiar voices saying, “go make the tea”, “go out and see your friends”,“do anything but sit and create”, we can exercise our increased will power and work more consistently, with greater discipline and patience.
Getting back to your roots
Sometimes we can get so bogged down in creating to fulfil a commercial brief, to please someone else expectation, or to meet some other end that is not entirely positive. We may forget why we started creating in the first place, we may forget the methods,techniques and sometimes even the field of art that we once endlessly indulged in.
The Artistic Meditation retreat played the role of reminding me that creativity is an expression of the soul. It reminded me how important it is to express freely, without fear of judgement, it helped me reconsider the intentions of my creative output and to refine and redirect my actions accordingly.
Meditation helped me to connect once again with the aspects of my personality and creative output that had been buried, it put me back in touch with my true aim in life, with my true nature: to be creative and facilitate creativity in others, and it allowed me to dedicate my time more freely and willingly to achieving this aim.
Meditation in itself can be an inspiring activity. By stilling the mind it can lead to developing new approaches, being open to new methods of working and new techniques of idea generation. The mind builds new maps of activity, habit and process. Perception can be altered.
Too much emphasis can be placed on looking outward for inspiration,however this can only lead to repeating or upgrading ideas that already exist, to access that true inspiration, to be truly original, we must look inwards.
Meditation can put us in touch with that reservoir of ideas that are perfectly unique to us, forms of personal expression that come from deep within and are a result of your own unique experience.
My last observation, and perhaps the most valuable, is to always remember that the retreat was just the beginning for me... I realised it was very unlikely to achieve some conclusion or any kind of awakening or enlightenment while at the retreat, so I just allowed myself to enjoy the process.
In my experience the retreat itself was only the foundation for what was to come in the following weeks and months. The real progress came afterwards, not only in the form of inspirational ideas,but also in the form of greater clarity of my aims in life, an altering of my values, a turning away from old habits and a turning toward a healthier and more organic and holistic approach to life. I found myself wanting to take better care of my mind and body, nurture my consciousness, improve my health, to be involved in more positive actions.
Taking part in the artistic meditation retreat helped me to expand my awareness, and showed me that I was part of a much, much larger picture. It helped me to resolve relationship issues, to observe with more clarity the behaviours and interactions that were wasting my energy. It allowed me to let go, to embrace uncertainty, to commit fully to my life’s purpose without doubts and fear.
It helped me to fully realise the importance of giving and being of service to others. It allowed me to give myself over to the flow of the river, rather than clinging desperately to the shore. And now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see how all of these things are contributing to making me a better and more complete artist, not only in the creation of artworks but also in the sculpting of a more productive, fulfilling and happier life.
Perhaps it can do the same for you too!? The next artistic meditation retreat will take place in Thailand in December 2016, so you have plenty of time to prepare with the 42 day self development program.