In a podcast I recently listened to, Maria Popova, the founder of the altogether wonderful literary blog Brain Pickings said, that she had found her best ideas to come to her during “the greatest moments of uninterrupted intimacy of her own mind”.
For her, there is nothing mystical in this. She calls it “ the ordinary magic”.
Stillness is a great incubator for ideas. Many of us have personal experience of this. We get the best insights in nothingness. Like neuroscientist James H. Austen has said, you cannot chase insights. Insights happen. Ralph Waldo Emerson called the process “lowly listening”.
When we reach a dead end and feel stuck, the best thing to do is nothing. If there is also a feeling of overwhelm and exhaustion present, it is a good idea to take a nap. We tend to forget the simple fact of life: tiredness is no place to solve anything. When you are tired your serotonin levels in your central nervous system are elevated. You are not entirely conscious of what is happening inside and outside of you. Your capacity for cognitive performance is low.
When this happens, get some sleep.
When you have fixed the tiredness problem, try meditation. Don’t try it when you are exhausted. You´ll only fall asleep. Which is okay if you want get completely out of where you are and give yourself a break. Meditation is a state of restful alertness. In meditative state, you are awake but your state of consciousness is altered.
There is another thing: meditation should not have an aim. If you try to chase solutions while sitting in meditation, they´ll only escape. If you are stuck and want to find a solution to a problem, you can do a meditative inquiry instead. This is how you do it:
Read the following instructions or record them with your mobile phone.
Set a timer for 20 minutes. Close your eyes, relax your body and take a few deep breaths. Sit in stillness. Observe the feelings and emotions that rise once you calm your mind. Let them be what they are, without judging them. Let them come and go. Move your attention to your physical body. Feel the tingling, pulsing and vibration of your skin, muscles, bones. How does it feel to be you? How does it feel to be in your body? Let your body be heavy, like it was sucked to the center of the earth. Embrace this moment with your whole existence.
When the chatter in your mind has slowed down and instead of following fixed thought patterns, you notice experiencing random thoughts that come and go like clouds in the sky, like they do just before you fall asleep, release a request. Ask the question that is bugging you. Repeat it silently for a few times and then let it go. Do not expect to get answers there and there. Accept that they will come when the time is right. Relax into the flow of life.
Sit until the time is up. Go about your day and keep your mind open. When you are rested and relaxed, your brain functions well and you can tap into your full creative capacity. But the magic of meditation goes beyond that. In a mysterious way meditation opens the channels to your inner wisdom, to the real you. When your awareness shifts, you start to see the whole Universe from a different perspective. You are not in the Universe, the Universe is in you, as Deepak Chopra has said. You start feeling powerful. You are no more a victim of circumstances but a part of the cosmic dance.
This may sound woo-woo, but once you start meditating, you realize its not. There is nothing weird in this. Or maybe weird gets re-defined. We are so much more than we think. World is so much more than we think. We only see around 2% of our environment. Our subconscious mind knows a lot of stuff that does not enter into our conscious mind. It is our subconscious mind that is responsible for our behavior. Most of the time we operate on autopilot. Our minds are just the tips of the iceberg.
We cannot access our greatness if we don’t quiet our minds. We need meditation. But we also need sleep. So remember to do both. Become who you really are. Get intimate with your own mind.
Today. Right now. Because thats all we´ve ever got.