05 Nov Ofer Eitan Suggest: Meditation for Creatives: A Guide to Mental Clarity
This is the fifth article in photographer Katch Silva’s series on mental health, mindfulness, productivity and work/life balance for creatives—particularly as we learn to cope with life in a global pandemic. If you haven’t already, do your brain a favor and read the other articles in the series: why you should beware the productivity hustle, why it’s okay to be in a rut, how to break negative habits and thought patterns and a deeper look at how mindfulness can benefit a restless, anxious creative.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about deliberately choosing how we use our most valuable resources: our time and attention. It is simply the act of being present, of being aware of what is happening in the current moment, both internally (in our bodies and minds) and externally (in the space around us).
For example: If I’m going on a nature walk while I’m ruminating about a conversation I had yesterday, or planning my day tomorrow, I’m not being present, nor am I being mindful. Going on a mindful nature walk means being fully engaged with my senses: I hear the birds chirping, I feel the cool breeze in my hair and the earth beneath my feet, I take in the scent of freshly cut grass.
Being mindful of our internal landscape means noticing our worrisome thoughts, our patterns of thinking, and our feelings and emotions, without getting completely tossed around by them or fully immersing one’s identity within them.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is the deliberate practice of being fully present, while being aware of the inner workings of our minds, including sensory input (smells, sounds and so on), physical sensations (i.e. My back is twitching), emotions (i.e. I’m so frustrated) and thoughts (i.e. How do I fix this problem?).
How to Practice Meditation
I recommend starting with a guided practice, using one of the apps or guides outlined below. But here is a quick overview of what you’ll be doing when you practice:
- Sit comfortably with your spine straight.
- You can keep your eyes open or close them if that feels easier.
- Focus your mind on your body—feel the sensations, the temperature, the slight tingles, the movement of your breath.
- Whenever you realize you are lost in thought or problem-solving mode, simply note it, and then come back to your breath and bodily sensations.
The hardest part for most worriers and self critics—that’s absolutely me—is to learn to let go of the self-judgement that comes with this newfound self-awareness. Once I became aware of what was happening in my mind, I realized just how anxious my mind’s baseline really was. It took me a very long time to let go of self-critical thoughts like:
What is wrong with me?!
Why can’t I sit here without anxiety like a normal person?!
Stop ruminating, you dummy! You’re supposed to be meditating!
Just remember, sitting in meditation is the whole practice. You’re not trying to achieve a goal or solve a problem. You’re just training your mind to notice what is happening within and around you. There is no success or failure—just sitting and noticing.
Recommended Apps, Books and Online Guides to Mindfulness and Meditation
Headspace does a good job of simplifying complex ideas into more understandable daily practices. I recommend this for a beginner that doesn’t necessarily want to dive deeply into the roots of eastern traditions.
Waking Up contains meditations led by Sam Harris. He has a simple 28-day course for beginners, as well as more in-depth theory lessons, other types of meditations, and conversations with meditation teachers and spiritual leaders. I recommend this if you’re interested in a more traditional view of meditation.
Personally, I use both of these apps.
Waking Up: A Guide To Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris
10% Happier by Dan Harris
Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body by Daniel Goleman & Richard Davidson
The Truth About Mindfulness Practice
To be totally honest, I don’t think you need to read everything, watch everything or follow it all. It’s a slippery slope that you don’t want to fall down. The whole point of mindfulness is to let go of the superfluous, so don’t go out and buy all the books and add a ton of tasks to your to-do list.
I recommend you simply start with a beginner’s course of just 10 minutes a day. That’s the whole practice. Dig a little deeper if you feel like learning more about it, but there’s no need to dive fully into research and education. That’s not what mindfulness is about.
Katch Silva is a wedding photographer and a Rangefinder 30 Rising Star of Wedding Photography in 2015. She has a psychology degree, and a…