Meditation and Creativity
Back in February of this year Wolf and I decided – after the usual prevarication – that we would try and learn some meditational techniques. I mean we actually committed to the process of finding somewhere as opposed to entertaining the idea as a desirable outcome in some non specific distant future. We were also, to be honest, given a meditational kick up the bum by a good friend, who would cunningly send random emails that gradually reduced the number of excuses we would use to avoid making a decision. Because underneath those excuses about, say, convenience or schedule or whatever pitiful self justification sounded vaguely convincing, lay a real fear. This fear was part acknowledgment of how chaotic our lives had become at times, and part lack of faith in our ability to steer it towards calmer waters. To make a difference. Self-destructive behaviour has a numbing momentum of its own, a narrowing of vision that shuts out protesting, pleading, judging voices. You choose to be passive, yet churn with the self pity of the victim, looking for things to blame. It is wretched and yet totally understandable – and as your behaviour worsens the self pity turns to self loathing.
After Tim’s death and funeral, which I can’t help feel played a part in our decision, we both decided that would see if we could introduce a Meditation practice into our lives. I had learnt a version of Mindfulness Meditation when I lived near Oxford, but that was at a very different time in my life, when the daily cacophony of worries about work and money and sheer survival seemed far more distant, theoretical even. Now I was desperate for a way of finding a peace, a momentary stillness from the white noise of anxiety that buzzed around my head like a tempest of angry flies, from what my dear friend Tony so brilliantly terms ‘The Fear’. For me there was no explicit spiritual journey, although I recognised that Meditation could become a path to transcendence. For me it was a overwhelmingly practical desire to just STOP, and stay STOPPED, and be STOPPED for a time. The key word for me was practice. Practice. Like trying to acquire any new skill I knew it was going to be a struggle, and it was going to require self-discipline, stubborn application (something I am good at) and also – more challenging – the self acceptance, even love, that would enable me to keep going. To say to myself ‘Well, hey, that wasn’t so great but don’t beat yourself up about it, have another go. Don’t give up’. My comparison was with the gym, which has become such an important part of my life. I go regularly, and train seriously, in the hope that even the smallest improvement in strength or stamina – whilst often inconspicuous – all adds up. And then one day – boom! You’re deadlifting 100 kgs or sailing through 30 minutes of Cardio when only two weeks previous 15 mins had been a struggle. Gym was also a discipline – a habit to fall into which becomes so natural you scarcely notice. I hoped Meditation might become the mental version of that.
So in February we attended some introductory sessions at Colet House, at Barons Court. A beautiful house swathed in scaffolding, which peered down on the frantic rush of traffic on the Talgarth Road, even its physical appearance seemed significant. Shutting the front door behind you felt like entering an oasis of calm, a respite from the world, even a salvation? Our instructors were elderly I guess, but beamed naked energy – bright eyes and lithe. I sensed a steely dedication behind the sunny manners. After an initial meeting we came back the following Sunday, with a flower and a piece of fruit as dedication, as well as a donation (non specified). There we were taught the mantra. There we were invited to meditate with them. Follow up sessions were politely but firmly scheduled – to touch on progress. The mantra is both a universal tool for everyone, and a precious gift to be valued – of course you don’t dispense it casually . On every visit Colet House echoed with a insistent, persistent calm – even when you could hear the distant sound of singing or dancing. As you left the roar of cars speeding past would drag you back into the world, which is where the real work of Meditation was to begun.
I have titled this blog MEDITATION AND CREATIVITY, because – I suppose – on one level I believe there is a connection. And yet the stillness I crave is the stillness of invention as much as distraction, so why did I instinctively link the two? I think it’s because I am looking for something else, something I need right now. And that is bravery. Over the past few years I have come to see bravery as one of the key elements in human nobility and dignity. Tim was so brave in the face of his terminal illness, and yet on one level he had no choice. Certainty of outcome clarifies the options. That’s not to diminish what he did, but to understand better the lessons for all of us not facing immediate extinction, but still need to find that strength, to communicate that strength, and to build that strength.
Good writing requires bravery in so many ways – a single mindedness of vision, a commitment to the truth as one sees it, honesty, vulnerability, tenacity. But being a good – ie, successful – writer – often seems to undermine those things. Because I guess bravery also requires confidence, and that is something I have struggled with on many occasions, and particularly so now.
So my meditation practice – which I have managed to maintain over these past six months and is a sense of accomplishment in itself – is about building a real and sustainable bravery so that I can do the work I believe I am put here to do. In the silence, in the stillness, I hope to find my real voice…..and then let that voice be heard.
Thank you for reading.