007 | On the relationship between Meditation and Creativity.

“…To study the self is to forget the self; to forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things.” — Dōgen

Meditation and Creativity

Very often a vacuum is the residency that is the most appealing — it is here that shared ideals are amplified and resilience to change weakens. The characteristic of mighty strength dismantles and disintegrates at the sound of an unfamiliar voice. So the walls of the vacuum residency increase in strength and again, the resilience weakens.

Popular opinion that offers convincing arguments limit the sense of reality and perpetuate duality — “this is the only thing” and “that is it” narrative. The paradox being that a desire to unite often divides. The challenge is not to silence contrary opinions but to understand and then get to work. The vacuum is a stiff twig that breaks when the wind blows.

Creativity is perpetually defined — it deals with problem solving but it also deals with romance and beauty. The design of locomotives is just as creative as Caravaggio’s depiction of Salome holding the head of John the Baptist. Whether we are photographing a flower with a smartphone or blowing on a soup to cool it off—we are performing creative rituals daily. Meditation is concerned with emphasizing daily rituals and unveiling the necessary information that is required to investigate our own processes and further nurture creative self-awareness, a byproduct of a meditation practice — the lamp that illuminates and shines upon the possibilities and potential that often goes unnoticed.

Education has the tendency of focusing on the study of contextual subject matter. If one wishes to be a designer, we study iconic designers. And although there is an advantage to this education, at a certain point, the willingness to develop one’s own understanding of the world must be initiated; an understanding that is unique to our own set of values and principles — a fabric that encompasses true-nature as opposed to an identity imposed to us by a curriculum or narrative concocted in a corporate institution. An example of what I’m proposing is the study of the self and an overlook of the fear of stepping away from a myopic perspective. Paradoxically, stepping away from a myopic perspective, in this case, means looking closer — and it means defining our own perspective.

“…To study the self is to forget the self; to forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things.” — Dōgen

It’s possible to leverage intuition and it can be done through a meditation practice — it means chipping away at the layers of delusion which calcify overtime. The myriad of possibilities is accessible by sitting still and closing the eyes.

Since 2016, I’ve been practicing meditation diligently. Shortly after denouncing Christianity, I continued to have a yearning for a practice that helped me get in tune with something. What that something was or is, I don’t know and I now realize that this thing I was looking for has been here all along. Meditation to me seemed like something that only some people could do and a practice that you need to do a lot in order to get better at. I assumed in this lifetime, it was already too late for me.

To my surprise, in recent months, I’ve come to the realization that I did plenty of meditation when I was a child. My mom would go to work and I would lay in bed and observe the texture of the wall or I would simply just be. This practice was never intentional and I didn’t have the vocabulary to give it a name but there are times now, when that childlike innocence feels very strong and present.

From 2014–2016, I worked at my university’s library. I was in their digitization department, so my days were spent photographing archival books, and editing thousands of photos every day. Much of the work that I did was monotonous so I had the freedom to learn things on the internet. During this time, I became entranced by the work of David Lynch and curious to know where his creativity came from. How did he have the imagination to manifest worlds and stories unlike anything I had seen before. I read his book, Catching the Big Fish where he talks about Transcendental Meditation as being the catalyst for his creativity, so naturally I signed up to learn from a certified teacher. My experience with TM was positive for the most part but I cringed at their celebrity endorsements and their message as TM being the ONLY MEDITATION that matters. Screw that. Any form of elitism can piss off.

The meditation that now I practice is called Zazen, which is part of the Zen Buddhist tradition, and simply means sitting still—suspending all thoughts and not engaging with them. It’s silent, can be uncomfortable, and requires no silly spiritual antics.

What drew me about Lynch’s explanation of meditation is his view on inspiration coming from within—he used the analogy that we, as humans, carry a vast endless ocean of creativity. Great ideas are fish living in this ocean, and when we meditate, we can go deeper and deeper into this dark vast ocean and catch the big fish. Some fish will be ideas that we can manifest and others will be ideas that are fragile and bland. The more trips taken to these dark silent waters, the more in tune with this profound experience. Like energy, these experiences cannot be destroyed nor created. It just is and it’s always accessible. Much of life is spent chasing the next thing and the next thing, hoping that when desires are achieved, life will finally have meaning. It’s the way culture and mass media works and this serves a vital purpose in our survival but that can’t be it. Meditation is about honesty and about taking inventory of what truly matters. Inspiration coming from within does not mean a selfish attitude, but an ability to reflect the world — to be a mirror. To walk in a trail and become the trail.

I like to think that Lou Reed when he wrote I’ll Be Your Mirror, had an understanding of this concept.

I'll be your mirror
Reflect what you are, in case you don't know
I'll be the wind, the rain and the sunset
The light on your door to show that you're home

To understand this stillness, think of glimpses of deep concentration, tranquility, peacefulness, or clarity. This is it. A state that is independent of external or internal circumstances. External referring to things that happen which we have no control over and internal referring to our emotions that tend to get in the way of seeing things at face value. Meditation is a private personal retreat into the selfless self, the selfless self that is infinite and boundless.

Meditation is for you and then it is for others. Cherishing our own company and developing a relationship with ourselves, then translates to being able to genuinely serve others. Meditation is called a practice for a reason. Do it and accept that there is no end-goal and there is no enlightenment. Oftentimes, especially in Western culture, meditation is associated with becoming enlightened. It’s framed as a materialistic practice that feeds the ego and leads into further delusion. To approach meditation with the intention of gaining something, ultimately misses the point. It’s hard to recognize our self-centeredness when we are conditioned to play this game called life. Escape the addiction to self-worth, self-esteem, and self-entitlement.

In light of recent events, there’s been a rise of social justice activists coming to the frontlines and using their voices to speak for the marginalized. In my opinion, in order for this movement to be sustainable, stillness and reflection is essential. Taking care of others seems like a laborious task if one’s own insecurities, anxieties, and tremors cannot be controlled.

Meditation truly isn’t anything special — it’s actually very mundane. It won’t solve problems but it’ll help figure things out and expose inadequacies which will assist in problem-solving.

Author, David Brazier, in his analysis of Dogen’s Genjo Koan, writes —

To be aware of one’s delusion is already to be more enlightened than most people are… A great saint is not generally somebody who is conscious of his own virtue, but generally one who is conscious of his shortcomings. St. Francis of Assisi is said to have wept for his sins every day and this was one of the most virtuous men in Christendom, while there have been innumerable hypocrites who think themselves far more virtuous than is in fact the case.

So there you go. Thanks for reading. I’d like to know what you think.

Don’t know where to start?

  • Give the Calm app a try — simple guided meditations to get you started.

  • The book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind is a great introduction to meditation by Shunryu Suzuki, a teacher who popularized Zen Buddhism in the United States. It’s a timeless classic book.

  • If you’re like me and want to understand the science or rationale behind meditation, this book is pretty good. It discusses the neuroscience behind meditation and goes over studies on why and how it works. The Science of Enlightenment: How Meditation Works

  • This is a book that creatives will appreciate. Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch