I had just entered “noble silence” when a brilliant idea occurred to me but I had no way of telling anyone. I was one of a hundred people participating in a ten-day silent meditation session in the beautiful Sierra Mountains. Talking was but one of the things I was required to forgo. Upon arrival, I surrendered my phone and thus my connection to the outside world. The rules were clear. You weren’t allowed to write anything down, so I left my journal at home. No magazines or books. No exercise. No drugs or alcohol. No physical contact with others and definitely no eye contact. And that ant that might crawl on your hand? Don’t kill it.
I was there to meditate, ten hours a day for ten days. And to be a serious student of the practice, I could not have ANY distractions.
The crazy thing is before that moment I had never meditated a day in my life. The closest I’d ever come was shavasana – those four minutes at the end of a random yoga class. After an hour of exerting, bending and posing, shavasana is your chance to relax and reset your body and mind. But while everyone around me zenned out, I came up with my grocery list. That was as close to the proverbial zone as I could get.
Needless to say, I never knew how to turn my mind off. So when that brilliant idea popped into my head at the beginning of that ten day silent marathon, I had nowhere to put it. No friend to discuss it with. Nowhere to write it down, no phone to record a voice memo.
So I had to let it go. And THAT was my first lesson.
Soon after, another brilliant idea manifested itself. And another. Then I thought about my ex. Then about the furniture in my bedroom. Back to my ex. I considered changing my brand of toothpaste. I thought about my dog. I started to cry thinking about how much I love my parents. Then I got angry thinking about my ex again. I thought about my 10th grade biology teacher. I wondered if blue really was my favorite color. And the word “brewery” kept running through my head. Brewery.
And that was in the first three minutes. Only 14,397 minutes to go!
The enemy of creativity is the monkey mind. Flying from thought to thought, like a monkey swinging from vine to vine, not allowing any one idea to flourish. It is the curse of our modern age. I watch TV while I play Candy Crush while I talk to my partner while I think about the day ahead of me. It’s no wonder that when an artist looks at the blank page, the empty canvas, the unfinished project… all those brilliant ideas seem to vanish into the ether.
That first day, I sat there cross-legged, trying my very hardest not to think of anything at all, but my mind raced. And it went on like that for three excruciating days until finally… everything slowed down. I soon learned that I wasn’t there to clear my thoughts, I was there to allow every thought to arise and then gently pass away. It was as if someone had changed my MTV mind to the American Movie Classics channel.
So if a brilliant thought crossed my mind, I let it go. In the same way I let go of the fleeting thoughts about my ex. Or my dental hygiene. Or breweries. No one thought counted more than the other. I gave my sweet little brain box a break. Like a farmer allowing a field to go fallow, uncultivated, in order for it to become fertile again.
By day 10 I was convinced I could stay shut up forever but alas, real life called. Much like a space shuttle reentering earth’s atmosphere, I burned bright when I got home, convinced I’d be meditating three hours a day finally free of the monkey mind.
That didn’t happen.
In fact, I rarely meditate now, though I know I should. The important thing that I learned is that like any muscle in your body, your mind needs to rest to grow. And I do that for myself, even if it’s a few deep breaths during a hectic day. And when I lay my weary head down to sleep at night and the monkeys start shouting “brewery!” from every vine, I take smile and let go, allowing those thoughts to arise and pass away.
And I’m much better for it.
Now that I’m back in the real world and allowed to write down the brilliant ideas that come to me, I prefer to do it in a notebook that’s just as creative and inspiring as what I put in it. That’s why I’m loving these 7 DIY notebook tutorials. The best thing about filling a notebook with all those brilliant thoughts is that when I reach the last page I know it’s time to get crafty and make another notebook.