I used to believe that I was a "creative." Beneath that belief were a lot of assumptions. One such assumption was that certain people have an inherent quality called "creativity" that others lack. I believed I was one of the gifted few. Believing this did not help me. In fact, it actually harmed my ability to write, which is usually where I employ my creativity.

This is becoming more and more clear to me as I work to dismantle the expertise around writing that I've built up over decades via a degree in English, master's work in technical writing, and all the things I've learned on the job.

Recently, I started doing meditations aimed at expanding creativity. This is the creativity pack in the Headspace meditation app. I like it so much that after I finish the pack I plan to go back to the beginning and do it all over again.

The course focuses on a visualization exercise. The guide (a man with a smooth deep voice and British accent) has you start with a few deep slow breaths and a relaxed gaze. Then you close your eyes. Then you scan your body. Then you focus on your breath. And then you visualize a bright warm spark of light in the middle of your chest that slowly grows. It spreads to fill your whole body and then beyond, to the room, the house, the neighborhood, town, state, country, continent, and world.

When I visualize this I find that it's easy to imagine the light filling my body and the room I'm in. And then it gets a little more abstract the farther I get from my current position. When I imagine the light filling my neighborhood, I tend to think of it spreading to places I walk my dog, then I imagine it rolling out like a wave into places in the city that are prominent or that I frequent, then to other places in the state that I've visited ... where friends and family live, and then to more and more distant places that I've seen pictures of, or what the land mass looks like on a map.

When you cannot imagine the light expanding anymore, you let your mind freely rest in that expanded state of awareness. It took me a while to get used to the rhythm and dance of visualization. At first I was too heavy handed and effortful ... trying to force my mind to do this right and getting frustrated when I wasn't satisfied with the results. The technique is one of watching something slowly unfold that you are not causing or controlling.

The belief that I can cause and control creativity s a mistaken one that I often harbor. It goes back to that belief that I was a particular kind of person .. a "creative." The truth is that creativity is a quality of mind that every single human has ... at least all those who have a mind. It is always there ... the mind can always tap into that property and using this exercise is one way to do that.

The meditation guide recommends "flashing" on the exercise multiple times throughout the day. It solidifies the channel to your creativity ... builds it up ... makes it a familiar path.

While I practice flashing on the spark visualization, I've realized that I have "flashed" on other more harmful visualizations unintentionally.

For instance, I flash on this concept of causing and controlling ... of all the things that could go wrong and how I must stop them. This taps into other qualities of mind than creative expansion. It narrows my mind. And when my mind narrows, I get anxious, wooden, decidedly uncreative. My ego loves this quality of mind. It pushes me to visualize doing the perfect thing to get the perfect result. I mentally recite the litany of ... first I have to do this and then I have to do that and I'd better do it this way so bad things don't happen. It's a kind of mental OCD rosary.

I have been doing this continually .. flashing on this visualization multiple times a day for years and years, not realizing that it was an exercise I could choose, so unaware of all the possibilities of mind beyond those thoughts that I believed were just reality.

But now I'm aware that causing and controlling are a visualization exercise, just like the creativity visualization exercise. I can become aware of what my mind is playing. Mind sweet mind and all it's games!

Now I meditate every day. Sometimes multiple times a day. It has become a habit because I've seen how living a day is different and better when I spend a few moments in the morning becoming aware of my mind ... how it darts about, how I can focus it with gentleness, and how I can free it to expand creativity. It is liberating to realize thinking is just thinking ... not something you have to believe or own. The mind thinks ... that's just what it does.

You can get the benefits of the creativity meditation if you "flash" on it throughout the day. Just for 30 seconds, you re-visualize the spark of light expanding to encompass the universe and then rest in the expanded awareness.

You cannot banish thoughts intentionally. That's the ego butting in again ... OK, you're doing the thinking wrong again, you'd better put the kibash on that mind of yours! No. Won't work. Tell yourself don't think of elephants and suddenly elephants are all you can think of.

Instead, become aware of what that scarifying ego is doing. Become aware of the meditations you're doing without any intent. Label them .. there's my perfectionism. There's my ego. There's that thought again. I see what's happening.

When you're flashing on meditations that put you in a small scared frame of mind, become aware of the framing in a gentle accepting way ... just like you would accept a small scared child, with understanding and nurturing. I see you. I see you.

When I make a mistake, what other people think of me .... all the ways it could (and likely will) harm my reputation and my future

  • What bills did I forget or miss paying and how they will likely make us homeless eventually
  • How the results of all this effort I'm putting in will not be valuable to anyone and may make me look foolish
  • How my dog's nails are getting too long and I can't bring myself to trim them
  • How my illness is disabling me and because there's no diagnosis for it no doctor will likely ever be able to help me and it will eventually result in my death
  • How I can't give my daughter back her health and her previous state of activity and joy
  • All that I'm not getting done that I've wanted to do ... house cleaning and organizing, novels I've not written.

And then flash on more intentional meditations. A bright warm spark of light in the middle of your chest, growing brighter and brighter, spreading until it bathes you and your world and your mind expands until it holds the largest awareness fathomable.

Work in that mindset and see how you feel and how much better the experience and artifacts of your work processes become.