This last definition of inspiration is interesting. I believe it to be essential and I’m taking it literally and figuratively. I’ll begin with the literal…
Inhale and Exhale…
For several years, I’ve been aware that focusing on breathing slowly and deeply takes me away from anxiety and being stuck in my head. I become more balanced in my body. This in turn helps clear the slate and provide a basis for clarity of thought, like turning the computer off and on again when it has crashed, except it reboots nicely. Focus on breathing is also simplicity itself, and we need that. These days, I am more aware of how the pause helps with inspiration of the way that the increase in oxygen is energising. It paves the way for creative work.
My favourites so far…
Here are a few breathing techniques that take me to a calmer (and potentially more creative) dimension. The first one’s wonderfully simple and I learnt it most recently. You simply breath in and out slowly, three times. While exhaling say ‘out’ softly and try to focus on the breathing. This technique came from the book I’ve just read, ‘Fast Asleep, Wide Awake’ by Dr Nerinda Ramlakhan, which is helping me have a better quality of sleep. The author does give more extended versions of this technique but begins with this simple breath. What I like especially, is that she suggests you don’t worry about whether you’re doing it properly or not (as many who have done yoga etc. might)… you just breath and be conscious of it.
Wow! What a breath!
In this enlightening interview with Russell Brand, Wim Hof (also known as the ‘Ice Shaman’) advocates another type of breath that I think brings about an altered state of consciousness. He advocates taking in and exhaling twenty deep breaths at a relatively quick pace (I think!) and then holding your breath for up to three minutes! I cannot yet do the three minutes and I have to say that taking in those twenty deep breaths in the space of time on the video is challenging too. Perhaps it goes to show how little used we are to deep breathing… Anyway, for the period of time where I don’t breathe there’s an amazing calm and clarity, a sense of removing oneself from the distractions of the day. A kind of meditation is what it feels like, one that I hadn’t experienced before.
The Calming breath…
This is an old and good one that I learned from the immensely helpful Anxiety And Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne PhD. You breathe in deeply and into the abdomen on the count of three, hold your breath to the count of three and exhale to the same count of three. I had used this in the past to reduce anxiety from fear of claustrophobia when having to get into a lift. Yet, I’m sure it too provides an effective pause, a good breath in which to refresh and start anew with our creative day.
‘Refilling the Well’
Another concept which fills me with joy and excitement and is a ‘breathing in’ type of inspiration (figuratively) is Julia Cameron’s recommendation of ‘Artist’s Dates’. She recommends taking time out each week for a solo expedition, with the emphasis being on having fun (not on mastering anything – so pressure is removed). The intention is that, in this way, we make child-like discoveries.
I love the idea of going alone to a natural history museum (this being one of her suggestions) and being inspired by what you see, possibly travelling continents… As a child, a favourite outings was to the Natural History Museum in London. The shells, crabs (that giant spider crab!), a gnu and dinosaur bones filled me with wonder. Tomorrow, I’m going to go into nature (probably a small wood near to home) and sketch into a junk journal that a friend has made for me). Next week, I plan to take up another ‘Artist’s Date’ idea, to spend £10 in Poundland, buy what inspires me and then make something with it when I get home. I had a look there today… they have artist’s canvasses for £1!
From a Place of ‘No Mind’
Another figurative ‘breathe’ is to go to a place of ‘no mind’. This is a type of meditation, a stilling of the mind. Right now, I’m reading The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle. The author describes the mind as a ‘survival machine’ and states that it is not creative. The latter point seems extreme and I’m still getting my head round it. Yet, I can see a truth there… He writes that ‘true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of ‘no mind’.
Could it be that we attain ‘no mind’ when holding a certain balance in yoga? (Focusing on our physical position and that stabilising speck on the carpet, thereby being more in the body and out of the ‘thinking’ mind) And/Or is it as Eckhart Tolle writes, when we’re in that moment of awe as we see a beautiful sunset? These experiences certainly refresh. That must be good.
Share your experiences
How do you ‘breathe’ for inspiration? Do you do this alone or in the company of others? Does too much thinking impede your creativity?
Do also see my other posts on inspiration, beginning with Inspiration 1: ‘The process of being filled with a feeling or the urge to do something’.