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  • Writer's pictureshelisloterbeek

The Creative Power of Contemplation

This is my story. There's definitely some brain science here that I don't understand fully. But let me tell you what I've noticed.

Actually that's the funniest thing - the noticing. A few years ago I used to be very unobservant in my non-working life. I regularly would fly through life, working, being productive and living life. Once in awhile I'd notice something interesting, but it wasn't a daily or even weekly occurrence. Then, I met John, my husband, and quickly realized that he saw a LOT of things I did not. Some of it has to do with who he is (a six on the enneagram and they are usually really aware of their surroundings for various reasons). I didn't really think anything about it and I wasn't striving or trying to be more like that in my life. I just assumed it was something some people have and others don't.

As I began learning about contemplative (I couldn't say it for a long time: con-TEMP-luh-tiv) living through various outlets, books, articles, practices, something else was happening in my brain. Contemplation is a long, loving look at the real. Yes, a long, loving, look at the real world around each of us. What does that even mean?!

One day, my family was in the car and I noticed something - and we all looked at it and then John said to me "I didn't even see that." It was a compliment to me. I had started to notice things that had even gone unobserved by my very attentive husband.

As I was (and still am) growing in a contemplative life, I took a course in contemplative photography. During that time I was required to go for a walk and just be. Make the walk slow. Look around. Don't go looking for something. Don't look for photos to take that I thought someone else might find interesting. Clear my mind. Be open to notice.

It didn't work for me the first time. Or even the second time. My mind was too busy trying to decide what I could "find a lesson" in or "what would look really cool". But as I continued to walk and let my own expectations go, I began to notice new things. My thoughts became less rigid and structured and I allowed myself to wonder about what I noticed going on around me. This unleashed a new wave of thought and creativity that I didn't even know could exist. (Thus began all the blogs!)

Before this, my creativity would come in random spurts - probably when I stopped long enough for my gamma/beta brainwaves (these are the brainwaves that like to get stuff done) to die down for a moment. But to actually be able to put my brain in place where creativity could flourish and all I needed to do was be quiet, let my own agenda go and take a long, loving look at the real, was a gift.

There's a funny thing here though. If I'm searching for an idea, a creative thought, the more I try, the more difficult the process becomes for me and I usually end up frustrated. However, the more I quiet my mind, relax, take time to notice without engaging my "doing" brain, the more thoughts and wonderings I have, spurring on my creativity. (Science sidenote here: alpha brainwaves are those that are experienced as we rest and "take a moment" and are present to the now. And theta brainwaves are found common in deep meditating.)

All of this to say that there is definitely a design for creativity and it seems as though it's not something that can be forced, but can be cultivated. If you're interested in learning more about cultivating your contemplative life and creativity I'd be honored to walk along the path with you.

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