Benefits of Meditation, For the Artist
For most of my life, I thought meditation wasn’t for me.
Sitting for longer than 10 minutes felt impossible. My head, neck, and shoulders would start to hurt, and my thoughts would come in such rapid succession that “letting them become fluffy clouds and float away” was a joke. (that’s what the meditation CDs told me to do anyway).
Yet, I never stopped wishing I could be good at it.
It sounded like such a great idea.
Then I heard about a kind of meditation called Vipassana, where even beginners sit for ten-day courses in complete silence—no talking, reading, writing, or acknowledging the existence of anyone else. It sounded like meditation boot camp, but I liked the idea of not having a choice to give up. I imagined myself in a big room with dozens of people, where I had to sit through my desire to stop until it went away. And that’s pretty much what happened.
In my first ten-day course, I had a lot of pain arise in my body, I became exhausted by my thoughts. However, the technique taught me how to move through it all.
I learned through experience that I could dissolve physical and emotional pain with my mind.
By bringing repeated attention and awareness to my body the knots in my back and shoulders melted away. The key was not to get upset by the pain and to stay equanimous. And on the sixth day, I felt a wave of joy wash over me while I was in pain, because I’d found that place inside me that was untouched by pain—my happy place. Where I could be content no matter what was happening in or around me. It’s a place we all have, we’re just not all taught how to find it.
The first thing most people say when I tell them about Vipassana is: I could never do that. But it really doesn’t matter who you are, you can. The room was filled with adults of all ages, cultural backgrounds, and personality types. Most of who were new to meditation. On the final day, everyone was so incredibly content I swear they were glowing. And while anyone can benefit from meditation, I’d like to share why it’s incredibly helpful for artists in particular.
5 Benefits of Meditation for the Artist:
1. Significantly Improve Your Presence.
The best art is made in the moment, when you’re out of your head and into the flow. Staying present and creating from moment to moment isn’t always easy to do though. It can be a bit of a head game, especially when you’re under pressure. Presence is not something we are taught in school and most of us didn’t learn it from our parents either. Ten days of silence is a crash course in becoming more present and embodied than ever, because there’s nothing else to do. You get an incredible amount of practice with very little distraction, which is what’s needed to get good at anything.
2. Dramatically Increase Your Focus.
Focus is also important for artists, as well as the ability to switch the object of your focus quickly. For example: Directors have to have the ability to see both the big picture and the smallest detail at the same time, and rapidly switch focus from one to the next as needed. That takes a tremendous amount of focus, which is something you can strengthen like a muscle. When you meditate for ten days, you notice an incredible difference in your ability to direct your focus at will. That’s because for ten days, you’re sharpening your focus by systematically moving it from each part of your body to the next—no matter how good or bad each part feels. The cramp in your calf gets as much attention as the blissful feeling in your belly. The ability to control your focus also allows you to block out unwanted things that can vie for your attention, such as Internet trolls.
3. Get Clear About Your Priorities.
For me, it was my kids. I realized in meditation that I’d been way over focused on a relationship that had no future and not nearly focused enough on spending true, quality time with my kids. It’s really easy in our fast-paced world, where so many things are vying for our attention, to forget what’s most important. When you sit for 10 days in silence, the noise falls away, and what matters most can’t help but rise to the surface. Whenever I talk to someone who has just completed a ten-day sit, they almost always have a renewed sense of where to focus their attention next—sometimes in unexpected, but exciting, places.
4. Reduce Reactivity.
You know that feeling, when a wave of anger or jealousy come over you, and you feel so driven to take actions that part of you knows aren’t great but you just can’t help it? That’s reactivity: Reacting blindly to outside stimulus and the feelings it ignites inside you. We all have our buttons, and it can feel impossible not to stay calm when they get pushed. The Vipassana technique teaches you how to drastically reduce the slave-like response to your buttons being pushed and greatly increase your ability to stay calm no matter what’s happening. The natural side effect of not being “hooked in” when people push your buttons is that it allows you not to take things so personally. Like when someone makes a rude comment simply because they’re having a bad day. If you don’t react to it, you can see it for what it is, a bad mood, instead of adding fuel to the fire and making it into something more. Having greater control over your own reactivity is so helpful, for handling all the pressures being an artist involve.
5. Be Happy.
It’s amazing on the tenth day when you can talk again, how happy everyone is. They’ve all found their happy places too, and the weight so many of us walk around with every day–of pressures, worries and concerns—becomes lifted. I’ve heard it said by many, that misery makes great art. And yes, great art can be made out of dark and heavy feelings. We all have them and they need a place to flow. Dark and heavy art can be extremely cathartic, for both creator and audience. But great art can be made from your happy place too–it can be greater even. But only if you know how to find it, which Vipassana can help you do. And in this day and age, couldn’t we all use a little more inspiration?
Ten day Vipassana meditation courses can be taken all over the world. They’re completely non-sectarian so you can be any religion, or none. And they are also donation based, so money is never an obstacle.
Some people donate $100,000 and some donate $10. Either way, all food, lodging, and instruction are included. It’s a miracle that works, I know… but it does.
I want to encourage you to find a meditation practice that works for you, whether that means starting with a Vipassana meditation course at the center I linked to above, or just spending 5 minutes each day before you get out of bed, breathing quietly.
If you notice blocks or obstacles arising for you as you start this practice, let’s set a time to talk. You can sign up here.