In a Creative Rut? Here's Why You Should Meditate

January 12, 2016

Whether you’re performing or choreographing, we all experience periods when we feel less than inspired. But spending relentless hours in the studio isn’t always the best solution. If you’re seeking a more nuanced way to interpret a role or if the idea for your next piece just isn’t coming to you, doing less may actually help more.

According to research from Leiden University in the Netherlands, meditating may help get your creative juices flowing. But how you meditate matters. The study found that participants were better at divergent thinking—that is, coming up with as many solutions as they could for a given problem—after they spent 25 minutes in open monitoring meditation. This simple practice of acknowledging your thoughts and letting them pass helps generate new ideas. While you’re meditating, if you find yourself worrying about nailing a tricky section of choreography or smoothing out a lift with your partner, it’s okay. Recognize those thoughts without judgment and move on. The best part is that researchers found this practice benefited both novice and advanced meditators.

Focused attention meditation, or fixating on a specific image or repeating a mantra, was also found to help with creative thinking, but its effects were more profound in experienced meditators. This method increased participants’ convergent thinking so they were better able to find a link between seemingly unrelated things. If you’ve ever choreographed several movement phrases you love, but are having trouble determining how they might work together, this practice could be for you. One example of focused attention meditation that I personally like is imagining a gold liquid slowly oozing from your head all the way down to your toes.

The next time you’re in a creative rut, set your frustrations aside for 25 minutes. Find a quiet space, a comfortable seat and spend some time with your mind.

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