“Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.” ~Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
WHEN YOU SIT DOWN TO WRITE, do you struggle with lack of focus and creativity? Are you easily distracted by external stimuli? Have trouble clearly envisioning that scene you are trying to write? If so, you’re not alone.
But to write — or, at least, write well — you need to be able to focus. You need to be clear in your purpose and vision for the right words to flow onto the page. But how do you turn off the world and find that internal inspiration?
I’ll let you in on a (not so secret) secret trick — meditation.
Yeah, I know. I can already feel your resistance rising to the idea: you’ve tried to meditate and just can’t; or, you think it’s a new-age gimmick; or you think you don’t have time to meditate on top of your already busy schedule.
What if I told you that meditating for just five minutes before you start to write each day will transform your writing practice? I can personally testify that it can and will. Simply put, meditation can help you become a better writer because it’s the easiest and shortest way to get into a creative “flow state.”
Here are just a few benefits of meditation:
- Brings your focus from the external world into your internal and physical world.
- Calms the mind chatter, leaving space for inspiration and creativity.
- Centers and calms you physically and emotionally.
- Improves concentration, focus, and self-control.
- Helps you connect with your inner voice.
- Taps into the subconscious, releasing deep memories and emotions. (If you write memoir, this last benefit is particularly important.)
Meditation can also help you become smarter. Think I’m exaggerating? Results of a 2010 study published in the Journal of Psychiatry Research suggest that meditation actually increases gray matter concentration in “brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.” (We could all use increased gray matter, right?)
Perhaps the best part is that meditation is easy, you can do it on your own, doesn’t require any special equipment, and is completely portable.
Here’s how to meditate:
- Find a comfortable position sitting or lying down. If sitting, you should be in a chair or on a cushion that encourages you to sit with a straight spine.
- Set a timer (five minutes is good to begin with) and close your eyes.
- Focus on your breathing. One technique to help focus on your breath is to count a slow four beats with each inhale and each exhale, pausing at the end of your exhale for a beat. Inhale 1-2-3-4. Exhale 1-2-3-4. Pause. Repeat.
- The repetitive counting helps you to breathe deeply and bring your awareness to your body.
- After a while, you may notice that your mind begins to wander. That’s fine. That’s part of meditating. The idea that you need to clear your mind of all thought in order to meditate successfully is false and, frankly, impossible. Simply notice your thoughts and return your focus to your breathing.
- When the timer goes off, open your eyes and take a moment to enjoy the feelings in your body.
- Begin writing.
Keep in mind that mediation is a practice. To achieve maximum benefits from it you need to practice it often and consistently. Five minutes a day is enough to make a difference in your writing and in your life. When you feel compelled to tune inward to that meditative state before you start writing, you’ll know you’ve developed a strong practice. Ten minutes a day can be revolutionary.
When you practice meditating before writing, you’ll work from a focused, reflective, and creative state. You’ll have more clarity and be free from mental noise and clutter.