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Mindful Moment is a mindfulness column from Psych Central that invites you to look within. Each installment features a conversation with a mindfulness expert and offers tools, tips, and inspiration to help you tap into your inner resources to create meaningful change in your life.

Human beings are born creators, whether we consider ourselves artists or not.

Yet many people may not believe they’re creative despite their innate ability to create. And for us creative types, it can be all too easy to experience blocks in our work.

Mindfulness can be a powerful tool for enhancing creativity since both practices require present-moment awareness. Research from 2020 shows that mindfulness and creativity go hand in hand.

Like mindfulness, creativity can be cathartic and healing — no matter how small or great the end result may be. Tuning in and channeling the muse connects you with a deeper, more authentic part of yourself to bring forth something fresh, new, and original. And it can be much simpler to do than you may realize.

Anne Cushman, a writer and yoga and meditation teacher in Fairfax, California, told me that creativity and mindfulness support the art of paying attention.

Meditation helps you be here in your body and in your senses to notice what you’re seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and feeling in your emotional life,” Cushman said. “And those are the elements that that can come into your art.”

Cushman explained that both creativity and mindfulness are about seeing our inner and outer worlds with fresh eyes and looking deeply into our true nature and the interconnectedness of all things.

Cushman, who writes about the intersection of mindfulness and creativity and leads creativity workshops with yoga and meditation, explained that creativity is grounded in the senses.

“When you’re paying attention you’re coming from that place of deep seeing, which makes what you create more vivid,” she said. “The process of paying attention through art makes you more present for your life, and then you come out of that creative space and the whole world feels brighter.”

Can anyone be creative?

While it can be easy to believe that only bonafide artists possess creativity, research from 2022 suggests that anyone can learn to be creative.

Creativity can come in many forms, too. For Cushman, the process is about tapping into the senses and moving and expressing from a place of deep connection.

“It could be a story, poem, or painting, a dance or a play, but it could also be a new or fresh approach to a problem, a new recipe, or even a fresh approach to an impasse in a relationship,” she said. “It’s seeing outside of the box and then taking action through expression.”

Creativity should have a healing quality — a focus on the process rather than the product.

Research from 2021 suggests that art therapy may be a complementary treatment for mental health conditions, allowing individuals to open up and share their feelings and experiences. The findings show that art therapy may be beneficial for mental health conditions such as:

According to Cushman, creativity should have a healing quality — and a focus on the process rather than the product.

When we fixate on the end result, judgment ensues. We criticize our early drafts and our first attempts and compare our work to the finished masterpieces of other artists. In doing so, we may give up before giving ourselves a chance.

“Focusing on the process of aliveness and trusting the inner impulse and accepting what emerges is where the creative process is at its most healing,” Cushman said.

“Part of the reason that it’s so healing is it involves learning to trust, attune to our creative impulses, honor them, and let them emerge rather than judging them and crushing them.”

Cushman added that practicing self-compassion is crucial to the creative process, but there should also be an element of play and enjoyment.

“Another aspect of the healing is that it gives us somewhere to put our emotions,” Cushman said.

“Instead of just being stuck and tied up inside, creativity gives the emotion somewhere to flow and it gets transformed into something that can be shared that could touch the hearts of others.”

When you approach creativity from a place of mindfulness, you can express yourself from that place of deep connection.

Whenever you sit to meditate, you connect to a deeper level of your experience. The same goes for mindful creativity — you’re connecting to a deeper part of yourself rather than crafting from the superficial part of the ego.

When you approach creativity from a place of mindfulness, you can express yourself from that place of deep connection.

“Mindfulness helps us tune in to life as it actually is,” Cushman said. “When we connect to what’s real, we cut below denial and can express ourselves from that place of truth.”

Cushman added that there’s something very raw and real that happens when we start to recognize the authentic self in our creative practices.

“It may not be the prettiest, but it’s real — and can be very healing,” Cushman said.

“I am a pencil in the hand of God.” –Mother Teresa

Channeling the muse

Writers, poets, and sages have long said that humans are a conduit for creative energy. The key is to allow ourselves to become a channel and trust in whatever comes through us.

As Mother Teresa had said, “I am a pencil in the hand of God.”

Cushman explained that every dimension of life is a channel for the creative power of the universe. “Life is inherently creative,” she said. “And life is expressing its creativity through us.”

Our individual part in creativity may seem small, but according to Cushman, it’s important. “It’s not up to us to heal and fix everything, we have our part and we do it with humility,” she said.

In surrendering to what comes through you, you can be present with what arises and trust that a larger universal intelligence is expressing itself through you.

Meditation can certainly help with focus and discipline, but we must learn to surrender and trust in the creative process as well.

“Feel free to write the worst junk in the universe.” –Natalie Goldberg

Cushman described herself as a lifelong journaler and often makes use of writing prompts. But she also enjoys exploring new forms of creativity that she’s less familiar with (i.e., (improv theater, voice lessons, poetry, painting, etc.).

Sometimes dabbling in creative pursuits that are outside of your comfort zone can help to get the juices flowing. As the author Natalie Goldberg had said, “Feel free to write the worst junk in the universe.”

If you’re interested in exploring your creative side but don’t know where to begin, here are a few ideas to help you channel the muse:

Connect to the senses

Check in with your senses and write about what you’re seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting, etc. You might begin each sentence with “I see..,” “I hear…,” and “I smell…,” as allow yourself to free-write without judgment or self-editing.

Movement

Gentle movement like yoga can help you get unstuck because a lot of blocks are often stored in the body, according to Cushman. Movement can help loosen and free those restrictions.

Draw a mandala

Any drawing practice can be helpful for inspiring creativity, but Cushman recommends drawing an informal mandala.

  • Start with a big empty circle on a piece of paper and be sure to have plenty of colored pencils or markers.
  • Sit and look at the empty circle and wait to see what calls you.
  • Pick up a color that inspires you and see what transpires from that color as you put it on the page.
  • Continue this process until you’ve filled your circle with shapes and images.

Use a writing prompt

Writing prompts offer some structure that can open the door to creativity. There are many free resources for writing prompts available online. You might try these journaling prompts for self-discovery or these journal prompts to help you get to know yourself.

And according to Cushman, the more specific you are as you write the details of your own experience, the more potential it has to resonate with others.

Find a community

Community, or Sangha, can foster meaningful connections and help make the solitary act of creativity feel a little less isolating. Cushman said the “lonely artist” is a myth and that it can be a lot of fun to create in community.

Look for groups that are welcoming to beginners (i.e., find a meetup where you can share each other’s work and support each other. And whether you find a group in person or online, taking a class gives you a deadline to hold you accountable.

“If you get stuck, lower your standards and keep going.” –William Stafford

Whether you’re a writer like Cushman and myself, or you simply want to bring more creativity into your life, regular creative practices can benefit your well-being.

And when you understand that creativity is a mindfulness practice in and of itself, it may become easier to learn how to navigate the discomfort of a creative block, surrender to the process, and trust in what flows through you.

“Remember to keep your expectations modest and focus on process,” Cushman said. “Like the poet, William Stafford said, ‘if you get stuck, lower your standards and keep going.’”


Anne Cushman is a pioneer in the integration of mindfulness, embodied meditation, and creative expression. She is the author of the memoir The Mama Sutra, the novel Enlightenment for Idiots, the mindful yoga guide Moving Into Meditation, and the India pilgrimage guide From Here to Nirvana, and her essays on spiritual practice in daily life have been widely published in venues that include the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, O magazine, Yoga Journal, and Lion’s Roar. A member of the Teachers’ Council at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and the mentoring director of the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program, she mentors meditation students and writers worldwide and leads regular meditation retreats with a focus on creativity, embodiment, and daily life practice.


Andrea Rice (she/her) is an award-winning journalist based in Raleigh, North Carolina. As an editor at Healthline, she covers mental health news and trending topics. Her work has appeared in news outlets such as The New York Times and INDY Week, and wellness publications such as Yoga Journal, Verywell, and mindbodygreen. As a yoga and meditation teacher since 2010, Andrea’s book, The Yoga Almanac, offers seasonal practices to nourish the body and mind. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter, and read more of her work on her website.