The healing potential of creative self-expression | Pro Club Bd

Mindful Moment is a mindfulness column from Psych Central that invites you to look within. Featuring a conversation with a mindfulness expert, each episode offers tools, tips, and inspiration to help you tap into your inner resources to create meaningful changes in your life.

Humans are born creators, whether we consider ourselves artists or not.

Yet many people may not believe they are creative, despite their innate ability to be creative. And it’s all too easy for us creative people to get stuck in our work.

Mindfulness can be a powerful tool for increasing creativity, as both practices require awareness of the present moment. Research from 2020 shows that mindfulness and creativity go hand in hand.

Like mindfulness, creativity can be cleansing and healing—no matter how small or grand the end result. Attuning and channeling the muse connects you to a deeper, more authentic part of yourself to bring out something fresh, new and original. And it can be a lot easier than you might think.

Anne Cushman, a writer and yoga and meditation teacher in Fairfax, California, told me that creativity and mindfulness support the art of paying attention.

“Meditation helps you be here in your body and in your senses to be aware of what you see, hear, taste, smell and feel in your emotional life,” Cushman said. “And those are the elements that can go into your art.”

Cushman explained that both creativity and mindfulness are about seeing our inner and outer worlds with fresh eyes, and digging deep into our true nature and the interconnectedness of all things.

Cushman, who writes on the intersection of mindfulness and creativity and leads creativity workshops using yoga and meditation, explained that creativity is anchored in the senses.

“When you’re observant, you come from that place of deep seeing, which makes what you create more alive,” she said. “The process of paying attention through art makes you more present in your life, and then you step out of that creative space and the whole world feels brighter.”

Can everyone be creative?

While it’s easy to believe that only true artists possess creativity, Research from 2022 suggests that anyone can learn to be creative.

Creativity can also take many forms. For Cushman, this process is about tapping into the senses and moving and expressing yourself from a place of deep connection.

“It could be a story, a poem or a painting, a dance or a play, but it could also be a new or fresh approach to a problem, a new recipe, or even a new approach to a dead end in a relationship,” he said she said. “It’s about thinking outside the box and then acting through expression.”

Creativity should have a healing quality – a focus on the process rather than the product.

Research out of 2021 suggests that art therapy can be a complementary treatment for mental illness, allowing people to open up and share their feelings and experiences. The results show that art therapy can be beneficial for mental illnesses such as:

According to Cushman, creativity should have a healing quality—and focus on the process rather than the product.

When we fixate on the bottom line, judgment ensues. We critique our early designs and our first attempts, and compare our work to the finished masterpieces of other artists. We may give up before we give ourselves a chance.

“Focusing on the process of being alive and trusting your inner impulse and accepting what arises is where the creative process is most healing,” Cushman said.

“Part of the reason it’s so healing is because we need to learn to trust, tune in, honor, and let our creative impulses emerge, rather than judge and destroy.”

Cushman added that practicing self-compassion is crucial to the creative process, but there should also be an element of play and joy.

“Another aspect of healing is that it gives us a place to house our emotions,” Cushman said.

“Rather than just being stuck and tied up inside, creativity gives emotions a place to flow and transforms them into something that can be shared and that can touch the hearts of others.”

When you approach creativity from a place of mindfulness, you can express yourself from that place of deep connection.

Whenever you sit down to meditate, you connect to a deeper level of your experience. The same goes for mindful creativity – you connect to a deeper part of yourself instead of creating from the surface part of the ego.

When you approach creativity from a place of mindfulness, you can express yourself from that place of deep connection.

“Mindfulness helps us adjust to life as it actually is,” Cushman said. “When we connect with what is real, we transcend denial and are able to express ourselves from this place of truth.”

Cushman added that when we begin to recognize the authentic self in our creative practices, something very raw and real happens.

“It may not be the prettiest, but it’s real — and can be very healing,” Cushman said.

“I am a pencil in the hands of God.” -Mother Teresa

Channeling the Muse

Writers, poets and sages have long said that people are a conduit for creative energy. The key is to allow ourselves to become a channel and to trust whatever comes through us.

As Mother Teresa said, “I am a pencil in the hands of God.”

Cushman explained that each dimension of life is a channel for the creative power of the universe. “Life is inherently creative,” she said. “And life expresses its creativity through us.”

Our individual share of creativity may seem small, but according to Cushman, it is important. “It’s not up to us to heal and fix everything, we have our part and we do it with humility,” she said.

By surrendering to what is coming through you, you can be present with what is arising and trust that a greater universal intelligence is expressing through you.

Meditation can certainly help with focus and discipline, but we must also learn to surrender and trust the creative process.

“Feel free to write the worst crap in the universe.” – Natalie Goldberg

Cushman described herself as a lifelong journalist and frequently uses writing stimuli. But she also enjoys exploring new forms of creativity with which she is less familiar (e.g. (improvisational theatre, singing lessons, poetry, painting, etc.).

Sometimes engaging in creative pursuits that are outside of your comfort zone can help to get the juices flowing. As author Natalie Goldberg had said, “Feel free to write the worst crap in the universe.”

If you’re interested in exploring your creative side but don’t know where to start, here are a few ideas to help you channel the muse:

Connect with the senses

Observe your senses and write down what you see, feel, hear, taste, etc. You could start each sentence with “I see…”, “I hear…” and “I smell…” if allowed You can write freely , without judging or editing yourself.

movement

Gentle movements like yoga can help you release because there are often a lot of blockages stored in the body, according to Cushman. Exercise can help loosen and release these limitations.

Draw a mandala

Any drawing practice can be helpful in inspiring creativity, but Cushman recommends drawing an informal mandala.

  • Start with a large blank circle on a piece of paper and make sure you have plenty of crayons or markers.
  • Sit and look at the empty circle and wait for what calls you.
  • Pick a color that inspires you and see what comes out of that color as you bring it to the page.
  • Continue this process until you have filled your circle with shapes and images.

Use a write prompt

Writing prompts provide some structure that can open the door to creativity. There are many free prompt writing resources available online. You can try these journaling prompts for self discovery or these journaling prompts to help you get to know yourself.

And according to Cushman, the more accurately you write down the details of your own experience, the more potential it has to resonate with others.

Find a community

The community or sangha can foster meaningful connections and help make the lonely act of creativity feel a little less isolating. Cushman said the “lonely artist” is a myth and that creating in community can be a lot of fun.

Look for groups that welcome beginners (e.g. find a meetup where you can share each other’s work and support each other. And whether you find a group in person or online, take a class gives you a deadline to hold you accountable.

“When you get stuck, lower your standards and move on.” – William Stafford

Whether you’re a writer like Cushman and I or you just want to bring more creativity into your life, regular creative practices can benefit your well-being.

And once you understand that creativity is in and of itself a mindful practice, it may become easier to learn how to navigate the discomfort of a creative block, surrender to the process, and trust what flows through you.

“Remember to keep your expectations modest and stay focused on the process,” Cushman said. “Like the poet, William Stafford said, ‘When you get stuck, lower your standards and move on.'”


Anne Cushman is a pioneer in integrating mindfulness, embodied meditation and creative expression. She is the author of the memoirs The Mama Sutrathe novel Enlightenment for idiotsthe mindful yoga guide transition to meditationand the India Pilgrim Guide From here to Nirvana, and her essays on spiritual practice in daily life have been published in The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, O Magazine, Yoga Journal, and Lion’s Roar, among others. As a member of the Teachers’ Council at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Mentoring Director of the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program, she mentors meditation students and writers worldwide and regularly leads meditation retreats focused on creativity, embodiment, and everyday practice.


Andrea Rice (she/she) is an award-winning journalist from Raleigh, North Carolina. As an editor at Healthline, she reports on news and trending topics in mental health. Her work has been featured in news outlets such as The New York Times and INDY Week, and in wellness publications such as Yoga Journal, Verywell and mindbodygreen. As a yoga and meditation teacher since 2010, Andreas Buch offers “The Yoga Almanac” seasonal exercises to nourish body and mind. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitterand read more about her work on her website.

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