Report: Meditation and Creativity

We just had another one of our Tai Pan events Рwhere we lunch and then rent a room for viewing video and discussion. We have done this before on different topics Рprevious one was Osho, but also Eckhart Tolle, Life of Brian, Consciousness  and others.

This format provides a nice change from the usual speaker/audience style of Dhamma talks.

This time round the topic was creativity.

  • Does meditation oppose creativity?
  • Does it stimulate creativity?
  • Once you are being creative, does this take you away from creativity?
  • What is the goal of both?

There were about 25 of us for lunch, and 35 upstairs for the discussion.

Here is a nice report on the event by Marcel, who joined us for lunch and the afternoons session, posted on his blog:

Here below are some of the videos we looked at (some are copyrighted and so can’t be posted up).

First up, a great talk by Elizabeth Gilbert: She raises many great points, but one we focussed on was the link between anguish and creativity – it seems the truly creative geniuses are tormented souls. There certainly is some kind of link, though we thought (and later showed) examples of happy people being creative also.

Second up, another TED talk by Amy Tan: We picked up on the ‘something out of nothing’ statement she makes; does it relate to Pandit’s view that emptiness/stillness is the source of creativity, and trying to get back to that moment of harmony, for a few moments, by arranging a medium in the world, is Art. If right, then Art is doomed to fail every time until Enlightenment. It’s just a half-formed idea! Not everyone agreed.

She mentions that ‘place of balance’ (harmony) but that there is ‘uncertainty in everything’ – which is similar to the idea that Art is an imperfect attempt at getting back to that stillness. (if this is correct, there is a catch, that any expression is by it’s nature, not still).

She also mentioned that Art could be ‘working stuff out’ (is thinking an evolved form of dream?), somewhere between serendipity and nightmare.

Now on to a pure example. Quite stunning showing of a world torn apart by World War II, in sand. The remarkable thing here, is the expression is the goal – the piece is not ‘frozen’ on the canvas (ok, so there is a video….).

Here’s a tip when watching YouTubes. Click on the YouTube icon to stop downloading the video you are watching, and open it in Youtube instead. This is great for finding related videos – for instance, try it on the above video and you link to many more similar scenes by the same girl. Click the image to enlarge it.

Here’s another tip. Copy the URL (web page address) of any YouTube and paste it into . A box will popup asking if you want to run the javascript program – just click OK. Then it will give you options to download the particular video in different resolutions. If you are on a Mac or other operating system, there are plenty of other similar sites if you you google ‘download youtube video’.

So far the discussion had focussed on each of our individual forms and ideas of creativity. But now we looked at another aspect – the enjoyment of other’s creativity. Here is one example of creativity (that required some anguish in the form of hard knocks):

We also looked at a great video of a very tormented guy who just wanted to SING, but the little bald man in the house kept on preventing him. How does he overcome adversity, and fulfill his urge to sing? You had to be there. (copyrighted). We were a bit nervous shoeing this one – but everyone loved it!

Back to the cyclist – some more videos we did not get time for explore the relationship between anguish, stress and ‘The Flow’, in a very interesting way.

Dr Robert Sapolsky is another we did not get round to – but he has some interesting things to say on the effect of stress on the human body, and by extension, mind. He also raises the research showing that the ‘high’ that can be experienced by performers and athletes might actually just be a drug hit – stress the body in the right way for the right period, and you will get a sudden hit of beta-endorphins creating¬†“a wonderful, gauzy sense of well being”. It is a drug high.

Also not enough time for Susan Greenfield in one of her excellent video’s on the human brain, where she seems to claim that creativity (and also ‘mystical’ experiences) might actually be brain-damage.

By far the most popular video we did have time for was John Cleese, in serious mode:

His talk seemed congruous with our little group; but then Cleese is known to have strong Buddhist leanings.

Finally we looked at ‘Where good ideas come from’, which go us onto the topic of what is created – nothing is truly new, but just a representation of the old. It is old ideas coming together in a new way – does the internet help this? For the first time since mass media took control of our world (in the days of story telling media was much more interactive) the internet is allowing for a truly global sharing of ideas and experience. Now that anyone can edit a movie, a song, or be a graphic designer, Creativity should be on the rise.

There’s much more to do on this topic – round two anyone? Or should we shelve it for a while and pick a new topic? A couple of suggestions – Buddhism and Relationships: why do Buddhists (reportedly) have a high divorce rate in the West? What has a tradition of renunciate monks have to offer those in relationships?

Or Buddhism and Family life – should you teach your kids meditation? How much time should a meditator spend away from their family on retreats, or off in a room somewhere meditating?

We have also done some full length movies, that have an interesting theme. Suggestions welcome (except for The Matrix). Can be documentary or fiction.