Using mindfulness and meditation to help your artistic practice is not as strange or ‘far out’ as it seems. There is a lot of talk these days about entering a state of flow, and this is applied to sports people as much as artists or anyone else. The benefits of the flow state are well documented, and the majority of people achieve it quite naturally when they are fully immersed in an activity they love doing. Classic signs of the flow state are the disappearance of the self, timelessness, and a sense of peace and oneness.
The Science of Flow
When in a flow state, the brain is at its optimum. Free from anxiety, the brain is able to make clear decisions without hesitation, or the internal critical voice which causes us to doubt. In short, intuition and instinct are fully operational, and there is little need for the analytical thought processes to interfere.
Most people experience flow accidentally or unintentionally, so it doesn’t happen as often as it might.
How to Achieve the Flow State
From an early age I turned to drawing and painting as a way to escape stress and my inability to cope with it, and would disappear into another world. I did not know what I was doing, but I knew it relieved me. Entering into adulthood, I would spend hours immersed in this stress-free state rather than engage with the chaotic world around me. The benefit of this was a very natural honing of technical skill and design sensibility. As with any endeavour the more hours you put in, the more skilled you become.
The buzzwords of mindfulness and flow have infiltrated our language and society. Meditation practise, yoga, breathing techniques are far from the exclusive domain of the Sixties hippies and are now part of most people’s lives.
Achieving the blissful flow state doesn’t have to be random or accidental. It is absolutely possible to cultivate Flow at will. You can invite it in, make it part of your daily life and work more efficiently, intuitively and peacefully as a result.
How can this be achieved?
My personal methods are not the only way, but I will share them with you as a good starting point. I’ve tried lots of other techniques (EFT, positive affirmations among many others), but none have yielded the results so wonderfully well as the practises I now employ.
Meditation, Mindfulness for Artists and HeartMath for Stress Relief
I turned to meditation and HeartMath breathing techniques out of desperation to relieve myself of stress and relentless circular thoughts. It wasn’t primarily to benefit my working practise, but I noticed very quickly that it did indeed benefit my work. Now I consciously incorporate both of these techniques as part of my daily work routine.
I meditate daily. Dr Joe Dispenza’s method is the most effective, in particular Blessings of the Energy Centres (available from iTunes and from his website).
How to Employ Mindfulness for Artists
If my mind is stressed or scattered, and I need to centre myself and achieve clear focus, I use HeartMath. This is a breathing technique which gives very quick results. It can be utilised when walking or engaging with tasks, or painting. In other words, you don’t have to sit with your eyes closed for long periods of time to reap the benefit. I learnt this technique from a qualified HeartMath coach. To say it was a good investment is an understatement. It changed my life by enabling me to function in an optimal state almost continuously.
A clean and tidy workspace is a form of respect for the work I am committed to.
Optimise yourself and your Environment
I always work in a clean and tidy space. This is a form of respect for the work I am doing. I am communing with something I love to do, so I present myself and the environment as if I am meeting with a person I love. It is not quite in the league of Kandinsky, who used to put on a dress suit every day to paint, but I’m not far off. The energy you pour into your creation certainly comes back out again at the people who interact with it. That is why I make sure to approach my work with love and respect. A clean environment definitely contributes to this.
Sometimes I find it hard not to rush to pour out my creation onto canvas. This frenetic energy is not what I want to impart to the people who will interact with it. They will pick up that energy. On a practical level, frenetic energy depletes attention to detail and gives rise to more mistakes.
How To Remain Focussed while Working
When I find myself operating like this (it’s very head-centred), I drop my focus back into my heart. I breathe by using the HeartMath technique, and deliberately slow my movements right down. This instantly ramps my attention into a hyper-focused state. I become intensely aware of all the tiny hairs on my paint brushes, and the movement of paint on the canvas. This state of hyper-focus is the ultimate sense of connectivity, and is the Flow state at its peak. The body functions efficiently, and the mind and body do not make careless errors. By using mindfulness for artists, I am revitalised, and not depleted. Rather than a draining out-pouring, it is more like a two-way communion between myself and the force of creation which I believe is something beyond the self.
The works I create in a state of mindfulness and flow have a deep sense of stillness which other people also feel when they view the painting.
I see my body as the vehicle through which creation is channelled. It makes sense to optimise the body and mind. In turn it will benefit the work itself. And in turn will benefit the people who are going to interact with the work and purchase it, and enjoy it in their homes. It is a conscious intention of passing beauty around. This starts with the artist and how they approach themselves and their work.
I shall end with a much-loved poem by DH Lawrence:
Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into
Are awake through years with transferred touch,
And go on glowing for long years.
And for this reason, some old things are lovely
Warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them.
If you would like further information about mindfulness for artists as part of your creative practise, check out some of the links below. Commitment to getting the best out of yourself benefits all.
HeartMath practitioner and coach www.living-in-flow.co.uk
Dr Joe Dispenza Meditations https://drjoedispenza.com/
Blessings of the Energy Centres (Dispenza method) https://music.apple.com/us/album/blessing-of-the-energy-centers/1231029766
The science of the flow state and how this can be applied to mindfulness for artists