Meditation is a powerful tool for increasing your brain’s ability to imagine and create and function—because it creates a massive increase in bidirectional networking within your brain. It increases communication between your top (thinking centric) and bottom (feeling centric) brain and, quite literally, fires up your writing brain.
Meditation also calms your brain and trains it to focus on whatever it is that you mediate upon, even if that is a reminder to release all unrelated thoughts so you can focus on getting your NaNoWriMo word counts off and running. Meditation is easily learned and can be massively helpful in both improving focus and accessing inner thoughts. By removing distractions, you are gifting your brain the opportunity to release what’s not important (or is cluttering your mind), clarify thoughts, and hone in on what’s most important to you. It doesn’t take much to learn how to sit quietly for 15 minutes and to send all intruding thoughts away, as if they are drifting away in thought balloons.
Basically, to fire up your writing brain, all you need to meditate is a quiet place to sit for ten to twenty minutes. Start with ten and work your way up to twenty minutes; the more you meditate the more you’re likely to find those twenty minutes crucial to your sanity—and your writing focus.
- Sit in a comfortable position. If you cross your legs to sit on the floor, perhaps place a pillow under your spine, or sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- Close your eyes and purposefully slow your breathing, noticing your breaths as you gently and slowly draw air deep into your lungs (and down into your belly) and then slowly expel the air. If you prefer, you can also keep your eyes open and use an object as a “soft” focal point.
- When your thoughts wander, bring them back to your breathing. If you like, you can use a ticking sound or soft music in the background to increase relaxation and improve focus—to keep your mind focused only on being fully present in your body.
- If you like, you can softly chant or draw out the sound of “om,” noticing how the sound begins to resonate more deeply as your breathing slows. Some people like to use guided meditation, and you can find a wealth of options online (see “Resources” below).
- As thoughts arise, gently dismiss them. Some imagine placing their thoughts in imaginary balloons and releasing them. Whatever works, use it to bring your “focus” back to your breath, to the focal point, to the sound of “om,” or to the guided meditation.
- Continue meditating until your mind has quieted, your breathing is slow, regular, nourishing, and you feel relaxed.
- When ready, slowly bring your consciousness back to the room. Some like to breathe in deeply and blow it out in a cleansing manner, shake their fingers and hands, open their eyes, or place their hands together in a prayerful way.
While it may feel like you haven’t accomplished much, meditating actually provides amazing benefits for your brain. You are training your brain to detach from distracting thoughts and emotions, to let them come and go without latching onto them. This training will help you transition from the demands of your daily life to achieving the mind-set to write.
Resources: Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) at UCLA offers a selection of audio files you can listen to or download at marc.ucla.edu. Audio CDs and digital downloads on everything from qigong to Taoist to Kabbalah meditations; Tibetan, Buddhist, Vipassana, and Zen practices; and guided meditations from teachers such as Pema Chödrön, Jack Kornfield, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and many others can be found at soundstrue.com.