December 12, 2012: Can Meditation "Fix" Creative Restlessness?




If you are creatively frustrated and are looking for meditation to make your creative restlessness go away, I say, instead: Embrace it.

In The Dynamics of Creation, British psychologist Anthony Storr says that artists create to arrive at a sense of order in a chaotic world, to seek status and prestige, and other psychological reasons. (I’m using “artist” in the broad sense to refer to visual artists, writers, musicians, etc.)

But perhaps the best reason, he concludes, is that creatively inclined people are simply blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) with a creative restlessness, or a “divine discontent” that makes us want to create something. This artistic discontent is useful because society needs art, music, books, and other creative works for entertainment, comfort, and catharsis. What a perfect equation: some of us needing to make stuff, while others need the catharsis and fulfillment offered by creative works.

If you are a person with creative ideas and inclinations who talks yourself out of creating because you think your ideas or talents aren’t good enough, or because you don’t have the time you think you need, or because you don’t have the support of others…try believing in yourself instead.

Do what you are programmed to do. Find a way, find the time, find the space. Give yourself permission to create. Use your meditation practice to help sit in compassionate awareness of the stories you’re tempted to tell yourself about why you shouldn’t be creating. Learn with your meditation practice to drop those negative storylines, or at least to not take them so seriously. And then go back to being the artist that you are.

December 8, 2012: Lovingkindness Meditation




For this drawing I drove last year to Davenport and parked in an area along the river called the “Gold Coast,” where charming Victorian homes in various states of repair dot the hillside overlooking the Mississippi River. 

After I drew the house I decided to use the image for our Christmas card, but I couldn’t resist adding the Buddhist metta (lovingkindness) meditation along the side. The metta meditation can be so powerful; if you haven't already, I invite you to memorize it and incorporate it into your meditation practice.

Here’s a description of the metta from Quiet Mind: a Beginners Guide to Meditation, compiled and edited by Susan Piver (Shambhala, 2008):

“The Pail word for lovingkindess is metta. The practice of metta helps us honor the urge toward happiness in both ourselves and others. We develop the ability to embrace all parts of ourselves: the difficult aspects as well as the noble. As we continue practicing from that base of inner generosity, metta gives us the ability to embrace all parts of the world” (p. 55).

And, from pp. 58-62:

“Begin by sending metta to yourself:
            May I be free from danger.
            May I be happy.
            May I be healthy.
            May I live with ease.

“Move on to someone you find inspiring or to whom you feel grateful. This person is called 'the benefactor.' Bring this person’s presence into your mind, and direct the metta phrases to him or her:
            May you be free from danger.
            May you be happy.
            May you be healthy.
            May you live with ease.

“Next, move on to a beloved friend, sending an unconditional lovingkindness to that person in the same way:
May you be free from danger.
            May you be happy.
            May you be healthy.
            May you live with ease.

“The next person is called 'neutral.' This is somebody you neither like nor dislike. If you have trouble coming up with a suitable neutral person, try thinking of a clerk you’ve seen at the supermarket or perhaps someone who walks his dog past your house. Again, use the same phrases you’ve used before, but this time directed to the neutral person:
May you be free from danger.
            May you be happy.
            May you be healthy.
            May you live with ease.

“Now you’re ready to send lovingkindness to someone with whom you’ve had difficulty or conflict. To send lovingkindness to difficult or threatening people is not to forget about your own needs. It doesn’t require denial of your own pain, anger, or fear. Nor does doing this practice mean you’re excusing abuse or cruelty. Rather, you’re engaging in the marvelous process of discovering and cultivating your inherent capacity for unconditional love.
May you be free from danger.
            May you be happy.
            May you be healthy.
            May you live with ease.

“In the final phase of the practice, we move on to offer metta to all beings everywhere, without distinction or exception:
May you be free from danger.
            May you be happy.
            May you be healthy.
            May you live with ease.

“In lovingkindness, our minds are open and expansive – spacious enough to contain all the pleasures and pains of a life fully lived. Pain, in this context, doesn’t feel like a betrayal or an overwhelming force. It is part of the reality of human experience and an opportunity for us to practice maintaining our authentic presence. Every single one of us can cultivate lovingkindess and wisdom so that happiness becomes our powerful and natural expression of being.”