When one thinks of creativity, thoughts often arise relating to the arts, music or even architecture. However, it is fair to say if it weren’t for creativity per se, then the world would not be enjoying the generally higher standard and ease of living that exists today.
Advances in medicine, science and engineering have all involved brilliant minds inventing new things that have revolutionised the way we live today. Even the simple light bulb (which so often itself is seen as a marker of spontaneous creativity), invented by Thomas Edison was a product of ingenuity that has transformed the world we live in. Some would even say that maths itself is merely an art, as the insight that is gained about a particular problem or idea is ultimately represented in the form of deduction and reasoning. The creative mind then is a force to be reckoned with in the evolution of human beings.
Much also has been written about meditation (especially by me on this blog). Meditation has been a revelation to me as to how I resolve stress, anxiety and become a calmer (and better) person. I’m also of the strong belief that by meditating, we are facilitating the process of creation to occur in the mind. Let’s look at what happens when the brain gets creative.
The human brain is divided into two hemispheres – the left side, traditionally associated with logical thinking and language. The right side is associated with spatial awareness and intuition. The left side of the brain is also wired very differently to the right and has shorter dendrites (or neural connections), bringing together information in its immediate vicinity whereas on the right hand side, such neural connections branch out much further, pulling together much more distant, unrelated ideas in order to develop greater insights.
Research has shown that immediately before moments of creativity, alpha waves are generated from the back of the brain, which has the effect of shutting down the visual cortex (used for visual processing). Gamma waves are then generated from a part of the brain on the right hand side called the “Anterior Superior Temporal Gyrus” allowing new ideas to “bubble to the surface”. It is believed that the brain cuts off all distractions, as if the brain “blinks” or closes its eyes. It is in these moments that we develop deep insights and new ideas emerge. Genius.
What’s this got to do with meditation, you may ask? Last week was a case in point. A complex issue came up at work, regarding a particular deal I was working on. After a lengthy conversation at the office late on Friday afternoon, I left work with a problem to solve, but with faith that, by Monday morning, all would be revealed. My faith was duly repaid, thanks to my daily meditation practice… After one particular session on Sunday evening, I almost jumped out of my seat and quickly wrote down the answer to the problem at hand. I know that you aren’t meant to do that, (although one of my top tips for meditation is to jot down your thoughts straight after), but I wanted to quickly note down this valuable insight. One of the bankers reminisced later in the week that, after I told them chapter and verse how the trade should work from a regulatory perspective:
“Adam, Lee and I all looked at each other and said, yeah, that works!”
I was chuffed.
To the contrary, I can also say that I have noticed the effect of not meditating for a period of time and my lack of creative output; during a recent lengthy vacation, I was really struggling for new ideas for this blog. I was also not meditating. When we returned, I resumed my normal meditation practice and the ideas started flowing again. Coincidental perhaps, but to me, it’s like a spark plug to an engine – without it, the creative spark within me can struggle to get going.
I’m not the only one – Clint Eastwood swears by it when directing his films and a leading hedge fund manager, Ray Dalio, who is now a billionaire, also credits meditation as the key factor in the success he has had so far in this career. Clearly, there are many professionals who use meditation on a daily basis to enhance their performance at work.
So, by the practice of meditation, we can access areas of the brain that otherwise would not be readily available during normal consciousness. By doing so, the working professional can gain a competitive advantage, generating that new idea or solution, which can really make the difference. The great thing about all of this is that the ability to be creative is in everyone – you “just” need to meditate. I know that’s a hard task for some, but if you really try to persist, then you may just be pleasantly surprised with what you get back. As for me, this blog.. What next? Who knows… but it’s looking good so far.