We are all born as infinitely creative beings. As children, we freely used our rich imaginations to create entire worlds, whether we were building sand castles at the beach, playing “house” with a collection of dolls, or pretending to be our favorite superhero. As we become adults, many of us unfortunately succumb to the prevailing cultural meme or belief that as we grow older, our brains lose their capacity to expand, adapt, transform, and evolve.
Scientists used to believe that by the time we reached adulthood, our brains were “hardwired” and we could no longer form new neural connections. In the past few decades, however, this idea has been disproved. As numerous studies have discovered, the brain has a quality referred to as “plasticity” – the ability to form new neural pathways up into very old age. The brain is fluid, flexible, and incredibly adaptable to new experiences. Neural plasticity is what allows you to teach yourself Spanish, learn to play the piano, or take up tightrope walking.
Although you may no longer think of yourself as a creative or imaginative person, your very existence is evidence of your innate creativity. In every moment you are co-creating your reality through your thoughts, your intentions, your words and your actions. We all have unlimited creative potential because our essential nature is pure consciousness.
By learning to reawaken your creativity, you will recapture the natural enthusiasm, energy, and wonder of youth. As the ancient Vedic sages of India observed, “The secret of immortality is infinite flexibility and creativity.”
What Is Creativity?
The question naturally arises, what is creativity? Creativity is a process of transforming the raw energy, information, and material of the universe into something that has never before existed. Whether you are creating a new business, an original piece of music, or a relationship, creativity requires a leap in awareness – a quantum jump from one pattern of thinking to an entirely new one, without progressing through incremental steps. In one moment a creative idea doesn’t exist, and in the next, it is part of our conscious world. In between, where was the idea? It came from the field of pure potentiality, which gives rise to everything in the universe.
I have found the following seven steps for awakening the creative response invaluable in my own life. You can use this process to healing, relationships, business, the arts, and any challenge you are facing.
1. Clarify Your Intended Outcome
The first step of the creative response is to develop a clear vision of what you want. State your intended outcome in positive language rather than in terms of what you don’t want. Instead of declaring, “I want to stop feeling so tired and run down,” say, “I have a healthy body with abundant energy.” Write down your intentions and review them regularly − the ideal time is just before you meditate. Although it’s important not to be attached to a particular outcome, formulating an unambiguous intention is essential.
2. Information Gathering
The second step is to learn everything you can about the challenge or subject at hand, using as many sources as possible. Become an expert on the topic you are researching. Read books; use the Internet; go to workshops and lectures; explore spiritual literature; and speak with friends, family, and new acquaintances. Be open to all resources, without judging or filtering. As you gather information and learn what others have to say about the topic you are studying, pay attention to the sensations in your body. Notice which approaches feel comfortable for you and which feel uncomfortable.
3. Information Reshuffling
As you cull information from various sources, your mind will reshuffle the data on both conscious and subconscious levels, formatting it in whatever ways are most useful to you. Your mind will automatically look for patterns to help you gain a new understanding of the issue.
4. Incubation and Meditation
Now that you have formed your intentions and gathered and reshuffled your information, the next step is to let go and allow something entirely new to arise in your awareness. In the incubation stage, you use meditation to go beyond the rational mind and access an expanded state of consciousness. In this state of unbounded consciousness, you are able to go beyond your ideas about how things should be and tap into the domain of nonlocal intelligence that is the source of all ideas, insights, and inspiration.
For the purpose of this creative process, you can use the So Hum meditation practice, which is a simple mantra meditation that has been used for thousands of years.
So Hum Meditation Instructions
Choose a place where you won’t be disturbed. Sit in a chair or on the floor, using blankets and pillows to make yourself as comfortable as possible.
Review your intention for a few moments and then let go of any thoughts about it. This will allow something new to come into your awareness.
Close your eyes and for a few minutes and observe the inflow and outflow of your breath. Now take a slow, deep breath through your nose, while thinking or silently repeating the word So.
Then slowly exhale through your nose while silently repeating the word Hum. Continue to allow your breath to flow easily, silently repeating So . . . Hum . . . with each inflow and outflow of the breath.
Whenever your attention drifts to thoughts in your mind, sounds in the environment, or sensations in your body, gently return to your breath, silently repeating So . . . Hum.
Do this process for 20 to 30 minutes. Just breathe easily and effortlessly, without trying to concentrate. When the time is up, sit with your eyes closed for a few minutes before going about your usual activities.
The fifth step in the creative process is insight. You will experience insight when the conditions are right. Your perception and interpretations completely shift and you have a new inner vision of whatever issue you are considering. Insight is the creative leap and is the essence of the creative response.
With insight comes the spontaneous generation of inspiration. When you see things in a new light, your entire mind-body becomes energized and you experience passion, exhilaration, excitement, joy, and enthusiasm. You know in your mind that your insight is true and you feel in your body that the insight is right.
7. Implementation, Integration, and Incarnation
The final step is to translate your insight into action . . . to implement whatever idea or change has come to you through the previous steps in the creative process. As you integrate the insight into your thinking and behavior, you incarnate the change in your body and as a result, you are transformed.
The Creative Response in Action
To see how this creative process works on a personal level, consider the example of Nina, a woman who constantly felt tense because her spouse wasn't meeting her expectations. She believes that he spends too much time at work and watching sports with his friends. She has been feeling increasingly anxious and has turned to food for comfort, eating more and gaining weight.
In applying the creative process, Nina first clarifies her intention, which is to feel good about herself, create a more loving relationship with her husband, and take better care of her health. She commits to read several books on relationships, which opens her to some new perspectives. She also learns how to meditate and develops a regular, daily meditation practice. She begins to feel calmer and more centered.
During one meditation session, Nina realizes that she has been missing her friends and that her resentment stems from her husband experiencing something she would like for herself. She becomes inspired to visit an old college roommate in another town. She has such an enjoyable experience that her attitude completely shifts. She begins exercising and eating better. As a result, all of her relationships, including the one with herself, improved.
As you begin to see every challenge as an opportunity for creativity, you will become more excited by the challenges in your life. Remember that the source of all creativity is consciousness. The more consciousness you have, the more potential you have to create. As you meditate, awaken to the present moment, and set up the conditions for taking a creative quantum leap, you will experience greater energy, love, and joy in your life.
For more tools to create a limitless life, join Deepak and Oprah for the 21-Day Meditation Experience: Getting Unstuck, available now in the Chopra App.