The True Fount of Creativity
To be creative, do we need to be selfish or selfless? Sadhguru explains, the most beautiful things arise when we live with a sense of abandon. Coming to creativity, if something beautiful has to come out of a human being, the most important thing is a certain sense of abandon – who you are has been forgotten for a moment. That is when you sing beautifully, dance beautifully, paint beautifully, that is when you can do something beautifully. Today, because we have been overtaken by the European mode of doing things, we think of systems all the time. Systems will work, but too much of system will kill you in the end. If you learn to do something with abandon, it may not turn out the same way every time, but there is beauty to your action – not because of the result, simply for the action.
If you have no sense of abandon in your life, you will suffer life after some time. Everywhere, the world has been infected with mindfulness right now. This country has always invested in how to be mindless in your activity that your mind does not come in. If your mirror is well polished, you become a reflection of the creator; or at least a reflection of the creation.
Sha Yoga, the meditation tradition studied in this article, includes many practices and, specifically during the 3 month retreat studied in this article, three primary practices were done daily which may be categorized into each of these three categories. Lingasanchalanameditation, in which the practitioner is seated and focused on one point, with eyes either opened or closed, is primarily a focused attention practice. Samyama meditation is a seated meditation involving the instruction to pay attention to the breath with eyes fully or partially open and passively observing thoughts in addition to watching the breath. This is a practice with a focused attention basis in which the instruction is to continually attend to the breath, although there is some open-monitoring/mindfulness component to this practice as well. Shoonya meditation is typically done after a set of physical postures and breathing exercises and involves sitting with eyes closed and engaging in a process of conscious non-doing that purportedly creates a distance between one’s self and one’s body and mind. This practice could be considered a form of open-awareness practice with self-transcending occurring through a non-doing aspect or alternatively conceived as a focused practice in that the explicit focus is on “non-doing”—as soon as one notices mental content arising in awareness the injunction is to attempt to reinstate a “non-doing”/nothingness experience and to use a mantra if necessary to do so. Alternatively, within the Isha yoga tradition, this practice is spoken of as a self-transcending practice and may be in line with the proposed self-transcending style of practice. The nuances of these practices and the best and most inclusive and accurate classification system for meditative practices is beyond the scope of this article. In addition to these three meditation techniques, Isha Yoga also includes practice of diverse yoga postures, breathing and physical exercise as well as chanting.
To assess the extent to which Isha Yoga meditation affects the processing of visual information, we used three attentional tasks corresponding to three different attentional characteristics: the attentional blink task (temporal attention), the Stroop task (conflict monitoring/executive attention and automated responding), and a global-local task (spatial attention to global vs. local aspects of the visual field). The subjects were tested at the beginning and end of a 3-month full time Isha Yoga meditation retreat.
In the attentional blink task (Raymond et al., 1992), subjects tend to be blind to a visual stimulus presented briefly after another stimulus when the first stimulus is consciously perceived. This phenomenon arises because of the limited availability of attentional resources: the brain has difficulty processing the second of the two images presented in rapid succession since it is processing of the first of the two stimuli. However, open-monitoring/mindfulness type meditation, by disengaging some of the brain resources and leading to a more efficient cognitive processing state, has been shown to decrease the magnitude of the attentional blink effect (Slagter et al., 2007; Van Leeuwen et al., 2009).
The Stroop task (Stroop, 1935) uses color names written in congruent and incongruent ink color. Participants are asked to indicate the color of the ink verbally or by pressing a key. When the ink color and the word name mismatch (incongruent case), reaction time to indicate the ink color is slowed down (and accuracy decreased) due to involuntary automated processing of the conflicting semantic contents of the stimuli, relative to the congruent stimulus. This effect is termed the Stroop interference effect and the paradigm thus mobilizes executive attention and conflict monitoring capacities. It has been previously demonstrated that decreases in Stroop interference are seen in long-term meditators with experience in both focused attention and open-monitoring practice typical of Buddhist training regimens (Chan and Woollacott, 2007; Moore and Malinowski, 2009; Teper and Inzlicht, 2013) as well related to meditation interventions including both mindfulness and Transcendental Meditation (Alexander et al., 1989; Wenk-Sormaz, 2005; Anderson et al., 2007) and these improvements have been conceptualized as improvements in executive attention and cognitive flexibility and decreases in automatic responding patterns. We predicted that subjects would perform better after the 3-month retreat related to enhanced cognitive flexibility and decreased automated interference from semantic processes.
Finally, the global-local task is a measure of the dispositional focus of attention at either a global or more local level and the ability to switch between these levels of visual attention. This test is based on the fact that due to the limited attentional processing capacities of the brain, when attending to the global shape of an object less attention is available to attend to the local details and vice versa. Moreover, information in the non-attended level of processing interferes with the attended level of processing due to involuntary capture of attention. Work by Navon (1977) and replicated by others since has found that most people spontaneously show a bias toward the global level of perception indicated by both (1) faster responses to a task to identify the global letter than to identify the local letters when the two letters are incongruent and, (2) greater global biasing on the local task relative to local biasing on the global task. On the local task (instructing press button corresponding to the local letters) when the global letter is incongruent vs. congruent with the local letters there is an increased reaction time/decreased accuracy related to global-biasing. Conversely, on the global task (instructing press button corresponding to the global letter), when the local letters are incongruent vs. congruent with the global letter there is an increase in reaction time/decreased accuracy related to local biasing. There has been limited previous experimental work with the global-local task in relation to meditation one such study has found improvements in Stroop performance in participants with experience in a variety of Buddhist meditation practices relative to controls but no changes on global-local task performance (Chan and Woollacott, 2007). Another study has found that Zen meditators with a predominance of training in both focused attention and open-monitoring practice demonstrate faster reaction times across all stimuli and a decrease in the magnitude of global attentional bias relative to controls (Van Leeuwen et al., 2012). In contrast a group of practitioners with primary experience in focused attention practice alone tended to show local attentional bias instead of the normal global attentional bias, and a 4 day intensive retreat in open-monitoring practice tended to reduce the magnitude of this local attentional biasing such that the reaction times to the two stimuli were more equivalent. These investigators interpreted this set of findings as indicative of the fact that focused attention practices may tend to lead toward local feature biasing whereas open-monitoring practices may lead toward a reduction in biasing to either the local or global levels (Van Leeuwen et al., 2012).
A recent study showed that increased local attention bias during the global task was correlated with an increased magnitude of the attentional blink and that greater global attention bias overall during this task predicted decreased attentional blink consistent with the notion that diffusion of attention may be indexed by both greater relative global compared to local attentional bias and decreased attentional blink magnitude (Dale and Arnell, 2010).
Our hypothesis was that at the end of the retreat our subjects would be able to better redirect their attention than at the beginning (increased attentional flexibility) and would thus show a decrease specifically in the magnitude of the local biasing effect during the global task and global biasing effect on the local task. This was hypothesized based on the fact that while some aspects of the Isha Yoga meditation practices (Lingasanchalana, Samyama) have a focused attention quality to them, there is also an open-monitoring aspect to the Shoonya practice that might lead to a decrease in attentional biasing.
FROM 1ST-10TH OF THE MONTH
How to begin ?
1. Select a common object such as a bowl or a spoon, put it on a table and sit facing the table looking at the object. Then close your eyes and imagine the object. What can you remember ? Some of the information you get with your eyes closed will be the memory,some will be from your imagination. At this point notice your feeling state. Are you frustrated by this exercise or does it give you a feeling of pleasure? Do you have any other emotions?
2. Close your eyes and imagine another object, something familiar that is available in the room. Then open your eyes,go find the object,and look at the real thing. How is it different from the image you created when you tried to remember what it looked like? Once again inquire within as to your emotional state.
3. Now try to remember and visualize some similar object from your childhood. How clearly can you recall what it looked like? How many details can you include? Can you place it in its surroundings? Does this memory include emotion that you can identify?
4. Finally imagine a bowl or similar object that you have never seen before. Create it in your mind’s eye. You can design the texture, the ornaments, the size, the shape, and other details of color and weight. What is it used for? Do you have any emotions toward it?
As you practice you will improve your ability to direct your attention toward imaginary objects. You are the cretor of these mind pictures, so you can change them if they do not suit you. Many of the emotions that can cause distress can be changed just as easily as you changed the texture of your imagined bowl.
- REGULAR YOGI
FROM 11th to 20th OF THE MONTH
Relaxation Techniques – Relaxing the Body
If you can visualize yourself in a relaxed state, then you are going to be much more skillful at relaxing. This can be extremely useful when you are under stress and feeling that your mind and body need to take a rest.
To begin, get comfortable, either lying down or leaning back in an easy chair, and imagine that your body is an ice cube melting on a hot side-walk. Feel yourself softening, flowing and growing calm. Dwell on the image and allow your whole body to respond to it. Remember, your body does not speak English, or any other language, but it does respond to images. Continue to focus on the melting ice cube image until you are fully relaxed.
Relaxing The Mind
After your body is quiet and calm, imagine that you are underwater. When thoughts arise, see them enter a bubble and watch the bubble rise slowly to the surface of the water. Wait in peace and stillness until the next thoughts arise. Acknowledge the thought, note it, and place it in another bubble and watch it as it floats away toward the surface. Eventually there will be more space and time in between thoughts. You will be residing a thought free meditative state.
- COMMITTED YOGI
FROM 21st TO 30th OF THE MONTH
You can use affirmations as a kind of visualization. An affirmation is a positive statement or visualization about some outcome you wish to achieve. It is important to use positive statements because a negatively phrased statement may be misinterpreted by the mind.
For example, if you use an affirmation such as “ I am not fat” the word not may slip out of field of attention and the affirmation could end up being absorbed as “ I am fat”. Rephrased as a positive statement it would be “ I am thin”. An affirmation can can also be a visual image or a feeling.
Visual affirmation are often used by athletes. In coaching athletes who are preparing for competition, the visualizations tend to combine kinesthetic awareness with visual awareness. Some racers are so skillfull that they can remember a 5 km race course in enough detail to imagine each stride and each turn in their mental practice. By going over the race in their mind’s eye, the racers can add a sense of euphoria, ease and skill.
Affirmation can also be used to calm your mental state. Simply repeat to yourself, either out loud or silently. “ My mind is quiet. My mind is at peace.”Or use the famous healing affirmation,” Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.” Affirmation can be used at any time during waking hours or right before bed. Simply choose a positive statement and repeat it to yourself either aloud or quietly for a minute or so. If you feel heavy, depressed or blue you may enjoy using affirmationsthat incorporate symbols of ascent such as a ladder, staircase or flying chariot, which produce a feeling of tranquility and composure.
Types Of Images
The following images reflects symbols that resonate to universal human experiences. They are commonly found in dreams, art and poetry.They can be used as an object of meditation as an image for active imagination meditation or as catalyst to elicit responses from unconscious.
• A bubbling fountain suggests the source of life itself. The image can be a kinesthetic one in which you imagine the fountain is bubbling up from the base of the spine through the torso, neck and head. This image helps to promote healing.
• * A well represents the source of wellspring of life as a deep still place.
• * A rock connotes the stable essence of earth.
• * A flower generally bring a sensitive, sensual and sexual beauty to the mind.
• * A ticking clock can bring anxiety or it can bring a sense of the orderely progression of time.
• * A quiet room is a well known image for a sanctuary to which you can retreat when you want to feel secure.
• * A cave is similar to the quiet room, but in a wilder more natural setting. Creatures that emerge from the cave may represent undeveloped or repressed qualities.
• The ocean serves as the archetypal symbol for the unconscious. It can be frightening if one has a fear of drowning. But the advise which serves many people well is : Don’t drown. Dive !
• Mythical beasts embody fears. If you encounter one, feed the monster and ask what it wants?
• * A mountain may be stable or may erupt as a volcano.
• * A dark cloud can represent fear. See yourself connected to the dark cloud by a long thin cord, and watch the cloud float away, grow small and disappear as the cord breaks.
• * A tunnel can signify a transition or passage from one state into another. Near death experience often include a tunnel.
• * A chapel is a symbol of a religious attitude, the sacred center of being.
• * A house can symbolize the self. If you need to cultivate a sense of nourishment , you might imagine a glorious kitchen and dining room and abundant stores of nutritious food.
• * Animals have had many qualities ascribed to them including hostility, love and strength.
• * A rose is usually interpreted as a symbol for love and sex.
When the attention wanders from image, bring it back gently and coaxingly back to image.
Visualisation can be useful in calming feelings of anxiety. If there is a specific situation that causes you to feel anxious, imagine 10 different scenarios of the situation ranging from mildly to extremely anxiety provoking. Imagine yourself encountering the first or easiest level. During this scenario, monitor your body for feelings of anxiety. Since emotions do manifest in the body, it is the best place to look for signs of unease. The breath in particular is sensitive to emotional states; as soon as you begin to lose your calm, your breathing will become less regular.
If you can encounter the first scenario without losing your tranquil state of mind, then move to the next more difficult level. Visualize yourself in that situation and once again monitor your breath and body for any signs that your relaxed state is beginning to change. If it does, then practice at this level until you can imagine yourself in the scene and at the same time maintain a relaxed breathing pattern.
You are training yourself to keep cool under stress. You are not doing this by giving yourself an order.” Chill out”. You are using a positive approach that includes images, which the emotional brain responds to much more efficiently than it does to words. The images can be expressed in words, of course, but they include something more that is perceived only by the visual, auditory or kinesthetic senses. It is a more holistic approach than the intellectually based technique of guided meditation.
Here is an example. Suppose you are afraid of an upcoming interview with your boss. Create ten scenarios and start with the easiest one. IN THIS SCENARIO, YOU IMAGINE YOURSELF MEETING YOUR BOSS AND EVERYTHING GOING VERY WELL. Put in sensory details. What are you wearing? How does the room smell? What temperature is the air? Then when your boss asks you a question imagine that you know the right thing to say and he or she complements you. Feel the joy of accomplishment and confidence.
If your breathing and body remain calm, you can escalate the difficulty of the situation.. Introduce a slightly more difficult level by asking a slightly difficult question and a tiny tinge of doubt and uncertainity to your boss reaction. Then examine your breathing and check to see if you are handling this level of difficulty without levels of distress. If it is easy for you, then escalate in the difficulty and continue step by step
If you only make it to level 3 that’s fine too. You may have created scenarios that are too challenging. If you make it to level 10, and you can imagine yourself facing the maximum amount of uncertainity and failure with no signs of anxiety in your breathing, then you are becoming skillful at detaching yourself from the outcome. The cultivation of detachment is an important aspect of the meditative path.