How Does Relaxing Help Your Creativity

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This morning I was thinking of the importance of being relaxed in enhancing our creativity and our capacity for creative problem solving. The sense of letting go and allowing for things to flow and ideas to come to you. I had in mind doing something like meditation or deep breathing and consciously relaxing your body or taking a walk in nature.

I was intrigued when later in the day I came across an article titled “Drunk People Are Better at Creative Problem Solving.” Research done at Mississippi State University found that tipsy subjects solved 13% to 20% more problems than sober subjects did. Mildly intoxicated subjects had more “Aha!” moments than their sober counterparts.

The key awareness around the use of a bit of alcohol is that it allows our minds to lose focus letting them wander. This leads to what neuroscientists call “spreading activation” where subconsciously the mind is searching more of brain for answers.

A glass of wine isn’t the only option. In China research showed that drinking tea versus just a cup of hot water enhanced creativity, possibly because of the relaxation triggered by the ritual of making the tea.

Relaxing is important because at the heart of creativity is a willingness to be open to new ideas and possibilities. When we take a break from the busyness of our lives and our habitual ways of doing things we open to more of our capacities for creative problem solving. We are more receptive to ideas coming from our subconscious, more aware of synchronicities that can provide insight and inspiration and giving space for expanded ideas to pop in.

A hot shower can work, so can staring out the window, sitting in a garden or walking by water. What works for you? Try it with the intention to allow more creativity to flow. The beauty of practicing relaxation is not only is it good for our creativity, it’s great for our over all health and well being as well.

Working with the Infinite Possibilities of Your Imagination

This world is but a canvas to our imagination. - Henry David Thoreau

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We use our imagination all the time, whether we realize it or not. When we are worrying about a future event we are imagining the possibility of a negative outcome. When we are thinking about our next dream vacation we are imagining the place and what we may be doing there.

When we are being creative we are imagining scenes as we write, the cake rising as we mix the ingredients for baking, or the blank canvas giving rise to color.

Yet most of us don’t think much about the ways we use our imagination and the mystery of how it works. Most of us hold tight to the confines of the mind, living from its repeating pattern rather than being open to the infinite possibilities that live in our imagination.

All creative acts arise in the imagination. If we can imagine it, you can create it. When Einstein said, “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”, he was suggesting that we need to work less with our minds and more with our imagination.

So how do we do this when we are used to trying to figure everything out and understand how to change or create something. How do we play with this incredible capacity of imagination that we all have.

It’s like building a muscle. The more we use it, the stronger it becomes and the more we can trust it to support us. A willingness to play where we just pretend some this real and true, the way we did as children is a good beginning.

Try this. Talk to a tree. Whether it outside your window or in your local park. You don’t have to do this out loud. Just ask the tree a question about a problem you are trying to trying to solve or something you wanting a creative answer to. Then take a few deep breaths, relax, let your mind quiet a bit and see what comes to you. Or you could do this as a writing exercise where you ask the question of a tree by writing it on the page and then allow the tree to answer you through stream of consciousness writing where you just let the words flow.

The key is to have fun with our imagination. Know that it is the doorway to the expanded capacities we need in our live an the world today.



Poetry: The Unsayable Said

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I was accomplished at writing essays before I started to write poems. As I ventured into writing in a new form it took me a while to figure out that poems were more than very short essays. I had to learn the rules of punctuation and line breaks and the music the words could make. It wasn't until I read poet Donald Hall's essay on writing poetry titled Poetry: The Unsayable Said that I really got the power of poetry. His advice was "if you can say it any other way, don't write poetry."

As my own experience of writing poetry deepened I began to grasp that poetry was the numinous expressing itself through words. More than in any other written form the poet has to surrender to what wants wants to come through. Poetry gives voice to the ineffable, that which is difficult to describe. Poems capture the feeling or soul of the experience. Once I really understood that my poems got a lot better.

Here's a poem of mine I wanted to share to celebrate the coming of spring. It was inspired by an awareness that kept tugging at my imagination. I then had to let myself be surprised by where the spirit of the poem wanted to take me. This is part of the magic and joy of writing poetry.

Spring

Loons drift across the bay
slowly dressing for summer, turning
winter’s drab gray into the elegant
black and white of attraction.

Oaks unfurl their green brilliance
and the melodies of warblers
crisscross the branches
coloring the forest with song.

Still, it is only when the swallows
suddenly appear, looping wildly in a clear sky,
that spring finally opens within me,
as if they have carried the season north.

Suzanne Murray


Did School Kill Your Creativity?

I believe this passionately: that we don't grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it. - Ken Robinson

The most watched TED talk ever with 54 million views is by acclaimed educator and visionary Sir Ken Robinson. It is titled Does school kill creativity? Schools teach us that it's not okay to think outside the box or draw outside the lines. From an early age we are taught to conform to a set norm which offers little room for being creative.

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Long after we leave school we continue to repress our creative self. We have often decided that we just aren't creative. Robinson insists that when people tell him they aren't creative he assumes that they don't understand what is involved. Creativity is actually a process that can be learned. New advancements in neuroscience have shown that it's not a matter of right brain/left brain but rather that different networks of brain regions are enlisted during different stage of creativity. We all have the capacity to access these parts of our brain.

In the past several years top CEOs and educators around the world are insisting that creativity is the top trait needed to do well in the twenty first century. Creativity has so much to add to our lives. It gives us a deeper understand of ourselves and the world around us. It can improve our performance at work and our pleasure in our daily life.

In working as a creativity coach where I essentially act as a midwife to help others reawaken and reclaim the creativity that is their natural birthright, I have found that it is always alive and well just below the surface waiting for a bit of encouragement and nurturing to come forth.

To begin to do this for yourself, stop telling yourself that you are not creative and start looking for all the ways you already engage your creative capacities. Any time you come up with a solution to a problem you are being creative. Since creativity has a strong subconscious element, exercising our intuition, intention and focus as well as an awareness of those flashes of inspiration are key element in building our creative muscles and experiencing how the process works.

To nurture your creativity play with it. Let yourself be pleasantly surprised. Have fun. Resist the urge to take it seriously or feel you have to do it right or perfectly. The only way to be creative is to try something and see what works and what doesn't, then play with it some more.

Making Mistakes

Life is "trying things to see if they work. - Ray Bradbury

Mistakes are the portals of discovery. -James Joyce

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Recently I worked with a client who was really blocked in her writing and painting. Through our coaching we were able to discover that the root of the block was a fear of making mistakes. Once she identified that bugaboo her writing and painting started to flow again.

Our culture and educational systems teach us that mistakes aren't okay; that there are real negative consequences to making mistakes. Yet the only way we learn is by our willingness to make mistakes and see what works and what doesn't.

From my own years of writing I have had countless pages that were practice that never really took off and I had many scraps of poems that were never finished. I always knew that this was part of the learning process of being a writer. Yet I also found that the stories and poems that really wanted to be completed would stay with me through the process of growing in my craft.

This really helped me to show up and just play with the process and allow what wanted to born come through me. This and just being able to play with the process is really an important part of being creative in any form you work with.

A friend once told me about a book on creating art that was called, One Continuous Mistakes. I never bothered to read it because just hearing the title was all I needed. My creative self immediately intuited the truth of it. I felt could feel that the secret to really being in the creative process is indeed a willingness to make mistakes and see where they lead.

What Sparks Your Creativity?

One of the loveliest words in the English language is the word “inspiration”. It signifies again the creative breath. It also has to do with spontaneity, with the arrival of the unexpected image or idea in the mind. Inspiration is the flash of connecting light that suddenly comes from elsewhere and illuminates. - John O’Donohue

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We don’t all find inspiration for our creativity in the same way. For me walking can open things up and let the ideas pop in. In my writing, starting with a word or phrase without thinking about where it’s going and allowing what wants to emerge on the page with a willing to be surprised gets the inspiration going.

For you it may be cooking or playing with your kids or grandkids or walking in nature or sitting in meditation or reading poetry or taking a class or dancing around the living room. Take a minute and consider what brings your inspiration alive. Plan to include more of that in your life.

There is tremendous value in sparking our creativity, not only for our work and personal lives but our bodies benefit as well. Research shows that when we engage our creative capacities we produce endorphins, the feel good hormones, along with boosting our immune system and the neurochemistry that increases brain function. We have an overall sense of wellbeing and an ability to solve problems and engage projects in expanded ways.

I know this is so true for me. Even writing a short draft of a poem or haiku immediately lifts my spirit. It doesn’t even need to be something I think is good. The act of opening to the creative flow even in small ways opens us to more flow and possibilities. Play with it and see if this isn’t true for you.