Everyone needs a moment (preferably more than a moment) every day of peace. A breath where NOTHING worries you. You close your eyes, exhale, and smile. If this sounds like a meditation routine, it probably is. The structure of relaxation and balance is designed to prevent the mind and body from utter destruction. But what if you could use those pockets throughout the day (or week) for more than health and wellness? Sort of a “two birds with one stone” idea?
(And, yes, I recognize the irony that I’m discussing throwing stones in a post on meditation – where you’re more likely to stack rocks than hurl them at defenseless animals)
Some people (me) get hives when they hear the word “meditate.” It conjures an image of a circle of people syncing their breathing while a soft-voiced instructor urges you to “go to your happy place.”
My happy place experienced Armageddon 12 years ago and is still quarantined because of the fallout.
But meditation is more than the stereotypical impression plenty of people hold in their minds. It’s nothing more than allowing your brain to focus on what it needs to. And it doesn’t require long periods of time, fancy mats, or special clothing.
You don’t even need a certified instructor or a retreat to a waterfall backdrop. (Though if you one of those getaways and aren’t planning to use it, send the voucher my way)
Guided meditations come in the form of YouTube videos, apps, even traditional classes. And once you have the knack down, you can walk yourself through the process without any help. Simply sit back, close your eyes (or don’t – it’s up to you), and engage your brain cells.
The time you spend meditating is up to you. Or, you know, your schedule.
Training the Brain
Meditation earned a reputation within the wellness sphere as a way to balance the mind and body. The chaos of overworked schedules, exercise injuries (don’t know anyone that describes), and emotional traumas led to a breakdown of everything inside an average person. And while pounding the pavement for a few miles might help you escape a few tasks (and your family) for a bit, it never does anything for the turmoil in your head.
Coordinated instruction on breathing, focus, and relaxation promised a way to calm the mind while also benefiting the stress overload within the body.
And setting up in swanky locations didn’t hurt the industry’s boom, either.
But meditation DOES help you corral your brain into ONE attention span. And the narrowed focus of the training enables you to balance the cyclone that most of us exist in these days. (If you don’t, I tip my hat to you)
Contrary to popular belief, meditating WON’T do the following:
- Help you STOP thinking
- Empty your brain of thought
- Bring you to that imagined happy place
Meditation is designed to improve focus and allow you to see clearer. And that’s what makes it a fantastic tool for a writer.
Meditation for Writers
Yes, you will enjoy exercise benefits when you decide to slow down, breathe, and THINK for even 5 minutes a day. Mostly because it’ll drop your cortisol levels a bit, and everyone needs more of that in their lives. But that’s not where I’m going here.
When you meditate as a writer – once you gain the knack, anyway – you learn to focus the writing side of your thoughts on projects, ideas, characters, etc., that you’ve struggled with. It’s the perfect brainstorming tool, wrapped up in a healthy habit.
Zoning out when you exercise (work, run errands, drive, do anything boring) is something most writers already know how to do. But you don’t always have control of the process. And that means a mind set loose, running wild from one shiny object to the next. Helpful if you’re looking for random bits of inspiration but not great if you’re trying to untangle a plot point or figure out an angle for a new story to pitch.
Meditation teaches you to hold that ONE concept foremost in your head and drill down on it. You calm your breathing, relax your shoulders, and focus your thoughts on what’s troubling you. (Gaining the bonus of muscles easing up from their death grip) Even in a few minutes, you unravel the extraneous noise you’ve built up.
Then you open your eyes, jot down the new insight and move on with your day.
And you’ll probably feel refreshed in the process!
The process of mindfulness meditation ensures you don’t get lost in your writing brain, emerging with 15 new characters, 13 new story ideas, a plot bunny, and 41 brilliant one-liners – but nothing related to the pitch you’ve been staring at for the past three hours.
Thoughts for Thought
I used to let my brain wander unaccompanied. And that’s why my story notebook is teeming with ideas. (Well, and the insane dreams fibro and melatonin conceive) I patted myself on the back for the brilliance of a wild thought pattern.
But it did nothing for the pile of problems I confronted each day:
- Pitches I couldn’t narrow
- Work copy I wasn’t satisfied with
- Content that read lackluster
- Plot holes that continued to gape larger
And I made the usual excuse of, “I don’t have time to meditate.” While doodling on a scrap of paper for more minutes than I bothered to pay attention to.
But sitting back in my chair (if you don’t have a chair that rocks, you are SO missing out), closing my eyes, and walking through a basic meditation routine have solved many of those problems.
Is it the answer to ALL of your writing problems? Of course not.
Sometimes I spend over an hour with my brain and emerge on the other side with a giant shrug.
However, I still get more insight into the workings of my thoughts on the question than I started with. And that’s something every writer needs in their life.
So give meditating a try. The worst you have to lose is a few minutes of panic. (And your adrenal glands will happily give them up)