We were fortunate enough to interview award-winning Mindfulness author and Journalist, Danny Penman about the world of Mindfulness for creativity. Check it out below and feel free to share any thoughts.
So Danny, why did you choose to focus on creativity?
Well, I wanted to shorten and simplify the existing Mindfulness format to make it more suitable for a broader audience. I came across significant research to show the impact of Mindfulness on creativity and I thought this it was a very interesting area – one that would help people optimise their approach to the world.
I started looking at the barriers to people being creative and what a lot of it came down to was basic stress – and it turned out that even the simplest of practices such as a breathing meditation can have a huge impact. The other barrier to creativity is people attacking themselves – to try and motivate themselves, they criticise themselves. This is why fostering kindness to ourselves is so important. A ‘metta’ or loving kindness meditation does this very effectively. In the course, I’ve adapted this traditional metta meditation for the modern ear and called it the ‘Resilience meditation’ because it helps us deal with any setbacks that we encounter.
Another meditation which is part of the course is the ‘Insight meditation’ – this meditation, when practiced over a number of weeks, shows really quite remarkable affects. Even practising for 10-20 minutes can have an impact on creativity.
As soon as we take the ‘stress’ away from a situation, it’s remarkable what can happen. We can start joining disparate ideas together, for example. The reason that people have so many ideas walking down the street or in the pub is that, quite simply, they’re no longer stressed!
In a nutshell, what is the ‘Mindfulness for Creativity’ course?
It’s one of the simplest and shortest Mindfulness courses available that still gives real and tangible benefits. Through the process of living in the modern world, many people may not have specific mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression but they may still have their own ‘hang ups’. These could be caused by work and the constant bombardment of information. This can mean that even if people are functioning quite well, they’re still experiencing quite a lot of unhappiness. So this course helps them explore different aspect of Mindfulness that they can then integrate into their lives.
Who do you think is the right audience for this?
It’s mostly for people who are working in business in the broadest sense. Specifically, it can be suitable for those working in the ‘creative’ industries such as the media, design or technology sectors as there may be a greater openness to new ideas. They may have already heard of Mindfulness or tried something and want to explore it further.
How does Mindfulness enhance creativity for you day to day?
Well, I’ve got very limited time at the moment as I have a 1 year old son and a 5 year old daughter 🙂 So my working day is compressed to roughly 8.30-3pm. I find Mindfulness helps me clear away the clutter and focus on what’s important. It sets me up in the morning so that I have a couple of hours first thing to write rather than being pulled in multiple directions. It allows me to prioritise things and see things clearly.
How does your daily meditation practice go?
My main meditation practice is in the afternoon, 20-25 minutes before I pick up my daughter. I will also spend some minutes doing a breathing meditation before I start to gain a clear picture of what I’d like to do that day – and then I begin!
I find technology (which I do love) pulls me in multiple directions so this enables me to gain some focus.
What common misconceptions do you think people have about Mindfulness?
People often think that Mindfulness is in some way a religious practice and many people are inherently suspicious of that. This comes both from those who have a religious practice, who may think that it would go against their belief and those that are atheist or agnostic who think they may be drawn into some kind of spiritual practice.
What Jon Kabat-Zinn and Professor Mark Williams, and some of the other key developers of Mindfulness for the western world, have done is to put it into a scientific context. Whether you’re religious or not, it helps to hear the rigour of the scientific research behind it.
What do you think the impact of Mindfulness in the workplace can be?
I think first of all, it can dramatically lower stress levels as well as enhancing creativity and clearer decision making. I think what this means is that you can develop a far happier workforce – employees who aren’t attacking themselves or each other 🙂
What advice or tips would you give to a close friend interested in Mindfulness about how they could begin with this practice?
It depends on the friend 🙂 If they were coming at it from the perspective of someone who was into alternative therapies and open minded, I would suggest they could go on an 8 week MBCT course. However, if they were inherently quite a rational and sceptical person, I would suggest they start with some very simple breathing meditations. That’s what my new book, ‘The Art of Breathing’ can help with– it plants the seeds for those wouldn’t normally consider Mindfulness. It gives people a basic grasp of simple breathing meditations. These can be done anywhere and are great stress relievers. They can then take these forward in any way they choose to.
Any final words?
Well, this is a practice, fundamentally, it’s about going away and practising and seeing for yourself. Personally, I love the philosophy and scientific research behind Mindfulness – but at the end of the day, these ideas can only take you so far. To gain real, long-term benefits, you have to go away and put them into practice.
Dr Danny Penman is a qualified meditation teacher and an award-winning writer and journalist. He is co-author of the international bestseller Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World and author of Mindfulness for Creativity. He has received journalism awards from the RSPCA and the Humane Society of the United States. In 2014, he won the British Medical Association’s Best Book (Popular Medicine) Award for Mindfulness for Health: A Practical Guide to Relieving Pain, Reducing Stress and Restoring Wellbeing (co- written with Vidyamala Burch). His books have been translated into 30 languages. His journalism has appeared in the Daily Mail, New Scientist, The Independent, The Guardian, and The Daily Telegraph. He trained to teach mindfulness with the acclaimed Breathworks.
Mindful Pathway offers Mindfulness courses for organisations including Danny Penman’s Mindfulness for Creativity course – please feel free contact us to discuss what works for your business.