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Practicing Mindful Creativity

As we move farther into the New Year, I’m finding mindfulness to be an important ongoing theme. Incidentally, mindfulness perfectly describes the purpose of MGisms. While art and creativity can be used to process thoughts and feelings, sometimes we make the mistake of over processing. Analyzing or processing trauma too soon or too intensely can result in retraumatizing the brain. For me, it has even caused brain swelling and damage.

While art therapy and writing to process old hurts certainly have their place in the broader world of mental health, as a recreational therapist, I focus on the physicality of creative endeavors. In other words, I value mindfulness in creativity. It’s what I teach in my sustainable movement classes. It’s what I practice when painting. It’s what I consider when reading, writing and reciting poetry. It’s what I encourage all of you to do when picking up a hobby.

What Is Mindful Creativity?

Mindful creativity is any creative project that helps a person focus on the present moment. Textile projects lend themselves to mindfulness more easily than some other hobbies, partially because of the need to attend to details such as stitches and tension on needles, thread or yarn. Also, the process of following directions and creating patterns helps us stay in the present moment. Without mindfulness, your quilt, knitting project, or latch hook is likely to get messy fast. Additionally, textile projects engage multiple senses—most notably touch and sight. Feeling the textures of wool, floss or fabric provides an opportunity to ground in the present moment and attending to the evolving pattern strengthens that grounding.

How Can You Practice Mindful Creativity?

Not all of us enjoy textile hobbies. In fact, you won’t see much about knitting, embroidery or sewing on the MGisms website because those creative endeavors aren’t my strong suit (although I certainly enjoy knitting a bit while watching favorite shows in the wintertime). You may have noticed that the items in my shop are pieces of art that focus on flow and form. Subject matter is often secondary in my creative endeavors (with the possible exception of writing projects). That’s because many of my creations spring directly from self-care and mindfulness practices. I find emotional healing in the physical process of creation.

To practice mindful creativity, you must create in a way that grounds in you the now. For example, I first discovered my ability to draw during a panic attack. I had retreated to my room and my gaze fell on a card from a friend in which she challenged me to draw a bird. I decided to prove that I couldn’t do it. Focusing on the shape and form of my model, the pigment of my colored pencils, and the process of rendering a likeness, I became grounded in the present. I completely forgot about my anxiety and, in about twenty minutes, created a colored sketch of an oriole that my friend treasures to this day.

Realism in art isn’t necessary for mindfulness. Nonsense verse and playful rhymes work well to ground the poet in the now. Poetry and writing games provide a great opportunity to practice mindful composition. I enjoy writing pantoums as a way of focusing on poetic form. Abstract art in any form allows the artist to focus on medium and process over subject matter and content—a great method for practicing mindfulness.

If you enjoy photography, you have the perfect outlet for mindful creativity. One of my favorite pastimes is exploring nature with a pair of walking shoes and a telephoto lens. I’m always amazed at the worlds that open up in front of me as I focus on a patch of lichen or zoom in on flower petals. Whether you zoom in or zoom out to take in the panoramic view, attending to your surroundings and framing them always has a grounding effect.

Have you ever experienced mindful creativity? Perhaps you got lost in a favorite piece of music and began to dance with abandon. Maybe you used one of the techniques mentioned above to derive joy or to help yourself heal from emotional scars. I’d love to hear about your experiences. Drop a note and share.

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