What do creativity and stillness have to do with one another? I use the word stillness quite loosely here to mean non-action, space or void. While creativity implies action and objects of creation. The two are quite opposite: active vs passive, yet they are interconnected .Stillness is vital for creation.
It is important here to talk about the Taoist concept of Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang represent two complementary opposites that are present in all aspects of life. For example light and dark, life and death, objects and space. Neither one can exist without the other .
“In order to know the light, we must first experience the darkness.”
- Carl Jung
I want to bring this concept of complementary opposites to the idea of creativity. A lot of us want to be more creative, but how? Well we must understand that for something to be created there must be space for that something. Here the object and space are two complementary opposites.
The creativity that I am speaking of here takes place in the immaterial word. New ideas, perspectives, insights, designs or whatever it is that you want to bring from the immaterial world to the material world. For this kind of creativity ,there must be mental space. There must be space in your mind for new concepts to arise.
What does space in the mind even mean?
Well if you have ever experienced a moment where your mind has become still, this is space. It is silent, it is blissful, and it is conducive to creativity. I assume that we have all felt these moments, even if you’re not aware of it. It is likely that you have experienced a moment like this — no thought, just awe and bliss. Maybe you were looking at a beautiful landscape, or maybe you were meditating, maybe you were looking at someone you love and you were totally engulfed by them.
Allowing your mind to be still is difficult to do on command, granted. But as creatives we must at least allow the mind to slow down. In order to slow down the mind we should talk about what speeds it up.
On a typical day the mind is bombarded with information, from Netflix to your boss’s voice. All of this external stimuli leads to exponentially more thoughts in your mind. When your boss says something to you for 5 minutes you may spend the next 8 hours building on those thoughts,creating and analysing every possible scenario that could play out through those words. Now add in social media, friends, family, coworkers, tv, news and the beautiful stranger on the bus. Your mind is busy. In order to slow down we need to limit the external stimuli.
Bill Gates called this his “Think Week”. He would spend a week in a cabin in the woods, somewhat disconnected from the outside word. These weeks with little external stimulation would help his mind focus on what is important, and come up with new ideas.
Not all of us have access to a cabin in the woods. But we could all turn our phone off for a day and refrain from watching tv. Just sit , be bored, let your mind run, maybe write out some thoughts, and allow your mind to become still.