Many of us have heard about the benefits of meditation, but sometimes find it hard to do. Fewer of us know about the profound benefits of creative expression. Creating is another way to access a meditative state of mind and the profound healing it brings.
“Art is a guarantee to sanity,” said Louise Bourgeois, a French-American artist who died in 2010 at the age of 98. She even went on to add, “…This is the most important thing I have said.” For Bourgeois, art was a tool for coping with overwhelming emotion. She says she remembers making small sculptures out of bread crumbs at the dinner table when she was a little girl – as a way of dealing with her dominating father. Art was more than an escape, it kept her sane.
The creative process increases awareness of self and space on a moment to moment basis. When creating we are in constant dialogue with right now, with what we are bringing in and what we want to become.
Here are four reasons why creative activity is such a potent recipe for psychological well-being:
1. Creativity is a vehicle for meditation and self-connection
Most of us can understand that creativity provides an escape to a sometimes harsh reality, but where does this healing come from?
Research has shown the power of meditation and the science behind it. One of the reasons it is so powerful is that it fosters acceptance. Creating is a type of meditation, an active training of the mind that increase awareness and emphasizes acceptance of right now, and the feelings and thoughts of right now.
Art, like meditation, allows us to create space between our often negative, anxious thoughts and loud mind and connect with our knowing, less chattery mind and self – as opposed to with the fleeting or false sense of identity we sometimes have when we are caught up in our thoughts and emotions. Eckhart Tolle, spiritual teacher, writes: “Identification with thoughts and the emotions that go with those thoughts creates a false mind-made sense of self, conditioned by the past… This false self is never happy or fulfilled for long. Its normal state is one of unease, fear, insufficiency, and non-fulfillment.” Creating is about reaching a state of consciousness and breaking free from the constant debilitating chatter of the mind.
2. Creativity provides a feeling of flow and freedom
Similarly to meditation, creative expression can help us tap into a deeper and more quiet part of ourselves. We enter into a state of flow and present-moment awareness. We find ourselves (at times) creating from a place of no-mind. Creative activity has the potential to tap into a space of true consciousness of being, void of interpretation. In this space, there can be a sense of having no physical parameters; no body, or form to separate one from the other.
3. Creativity allows for true self-expression
The process of creating overrides the need for verbal communication. Creativity is its own language and enables humans to connect with one another, and themselves on a non-verbal level. This also explains how we can be moved to the core when looking at a work of art, or even listening to music, without necessarily knowing the specifics about its origin. Creative expression exists within its own non-verbal parameter and thus frees us up for unadulterated self-expression.
4. Creativity helps us become steady and centered
As a plus, it is interesting to note that Bourgeois, when asked to comment on her extensive body of work spanning her entire lifetime, says what impresses her most “is how constant [I] have been.” Perhaps we need to redefine what we consider to be a storybook happy ending. Happiness may be less a matter of experiencing sharp highs (often followed by deep lows), and more a matter of nurturing a space that provides stability and a constant connection to our true selves.
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