How meditation killed my creativity and made me more stressed
Stefano Bernardi

I think it’s great you tried this, Stefano, and you may be right. I don’t think meditation is right for everyone. Full disclosure, though — I’ve practiced meditation for almost twenty years and it has transformed every area of my life. And I’ve been in high stress jobs — law, consulting, health care, finance — for all of that time. I’ve also taught meditation, and the attrition rate among new meditators is something like 99 percent from what I can tell. So I’m impressed that you’ve made it this far, especially since you may have a fundamental misconception of what mindfulness is.

There are a lot of reasons why people start meditating — the two that you seem most focused on are being less stressed and more creative.

But trying not to think, or only to focus on your current sensations, etc., is not a ticket to either of those. It’s clear that this has been your experience, and that “meditation” in this way is creating MORE stress and I would guess LESS creativity. No wonder you quit.

If you’re willing to give it another try, you might want a different focus. Think of mindfulness not as an act of excluding the undesirable parts of your experience, but instead, of including, without judgment, all of your experience. You can use your breath, or a saying, as a focus to come back to, but it’s intended to be a gentle reminder, not a padlock.

So if you’re stressed, notice your mind is racing and come back to your breath. If you’re hungry or itchy, notice that. If your mind wanders for the whole ten minutes as you think of your next great idea, notice that.

Some days on the cushion are focused and calm, some are distracted and chaotic. But they all count, and they are all important. In fact, my experience is that the chaotic days are probably more important.

Over time, this is what I have noticed from my own practice. First, I did get calmer. I used to have panic attacks. Those went away fairly quickly.

Second, I am a much better listener. I connect much better with other people — I am fully present to what they are asking of me, instead of just waiting for my turn to speak.

Finally, I am more creative. Not because my mind is racing, but because as my mind has settled, the good ideas are much more likely to float to the top. Insights happen in a way that they didn’t before.

My meditation can still be chaotic. But more important is what happens off the cushion. In short, a space begins to open up between an event and my reaction to it. So I get more options, more choices in how I handle situations. I seemingly have more time, I get more important things done, I’m less reactive and defensive, I enjoy even difficult people more and I’m less difficult myself.

It didn’t happen quickly. But it did happen. And it continues to get better, even after almost 20 years.

Good luck, Stefano.

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