For many authors, the thought of developing a meditation practice seems very ‘New Age’ and something that you may not have considered yet, for many it conjures up images of sitting cross legged next to a stream while chanting a mantra, and for this reason you may ask ‘well how will it help me write a book?’
And that is a great question, how will it help with your creativity?
Well, first you need to understand the basic benefits that meditation has been proven to give those who practice it.
One – A flow-like state
First of all, it’s been shown to reduce activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, this is the area of the brain that helps with making decisions, focusing your attention, organized thoughts, impulse control and anticipating the future. With activity in this area calmed down, the rest of your brain (especially the creative parts) get a chance to communicate better and be more effective, you essentially have access to a bigger part of your brain and can work in a more ‘flow like’ state.
Working at your best and at your most creative tends to come from when you are in a state of flow, here time seems to be irrelevant, ideas come to you easily and your focus is so intense that no distractions bother you.
Two – Reducing Stress
Meditation has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety, we all know that working to deadlines can be useful, but working in a continuous state of high stress (apart from being unhealthy) does not lead to the most creative outcomes for any author, meditating regularly can reduce this.
Three – Concentration and focus
It also helps with boosting your concentration and focus, as the practice usually involves you focusing in on your breathing (or a mantra), when done consistently over a period of time it slowly trains your mind to become better at focusing without being bothered by outside distractions.
Four – Letting go of your ego
Another benefit comes with its effect on the ego, meditation gives you the opportunity to observe that which is around you without judgement or impact upon yourself, this is important because when you do anything which is creative there can be fear of rejection, and this in some cases can lead to inaction (so your manuscript stays unfinished because ‘what if a reviewer doesn’t like it’?
So, how should you start meditating?
As the countless people who swear by meditation will tell you, starting to meditate can change your life in many positive ways, but if you have never done it before, how does it work and how should you start?
One – Get comfortable
The idea of sitting in the lotus position may work for some, but not all of us, the main thing is to get comfortable, whether you’re sat in a chair or lying down, you should be in a comfortable position which will help you to stay relaxed.
Two – How long should you meditate?
If you have never done this before, it’s probably best to meditate for between 5-15mins (you can increase this as your practice develops, many devout meditators go for several hours at a time, but if you can do 20 – 30 mins per day you will notice a difference), it’s also worth setting a timer so that you don’t have to open your eyes to check the clock.
Three – Breathe
Many people who meditate focus in on their breathing, counting on the inhale and again on the exhale, the reason they do this is to help draw their attention onto something which is mundane, the act of meditating is in letting go of thoughts (which is harder than you may think), so gently nudging your focus onto your breathing can help.
Four – Close your eyes and breathe
Once you are comfortable and have a timer set, close your eyes and bring your attention onto your breathing, breathe slowly and naturally, begin to count on the in breath up to the number four and then count again up to four on the exhale.
Five – Be aware of your thoughts
The goal in meditation is to let go of thoughts and keep a clear mind, which (as mentioned before) is incredibly hard to do at times, you will find that your thoughts wander and this is very natural, so when it does, don’t be hard on yourself, acknowledge the thought, let it go and refocus on your breathing. It may seem difficult at first, but it really is a part of the process, accept that it happens and move back to your breathing.
Six – Try other forms of meditation too
There are other options such as transcendental meditation and even guided meditation (all of which you can find videos on YouTube on how to do), if over time one practice doesn’t work for you, try another.
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