CREATIVITY ZONE

THE “ARTIST’S DATE!” … Stressed Out? Get Out! Play Hooky! Your “Inner Artist” Needs a Quiet Break, Now! Answers Will Come Later!

“The capacity for silence—a deep, creative awareness
of one’s inner truth—is what distinguishes us as human.
All of us, however ordinary or flawed, have at heart
a seemingly bound-less longing for fulfillment …
Silence is a paradox, intensely there
and with equal intensity, not there …
There is nothing to say, nothing even to experience
in any words that sound impressive,
yet the looking never wearies.”
Sister Wendy’s
Book of Meditations
Stressed to the max?  Had enough? Office driving you nuts. Some business problem you’re working on has you totally frustrated. You can’t seem to get an important project off the ground. Your brain’s locked up. Nothing’s working. You need solutions now, a new idea, a brainstorm—but drawing blanks? Running up cul du sacs, into dead-ends! You’re exhausted, can’t think straight!!
Sound familiar? It happens to everyone in business at some point. You’re trying hard—probably too hard for too long—and it’s not working. Happened to me so many times in New York City and Los Angeles, with Corporate America blue chips, in the investment banking business of Wall Street. You’re running on empty … your brain freezes … locks up … grinds to a halt!
CAN’T FIND THE SOLUTION TO A BIG PROBLEM?
PLAY HIDE’N’SEEK—LET IT FIND YOU!
This simple meditation technique works like a charm. And it’s one of the best for anyone in the workaday world. Think of it as an adult version of hide’n’seek. You’ve probably already tried it without thinking of it as meditation. It’s worked for me many times, and I’ll bet for millions of others on Wall Street and throughout Corporate America. It happens so naturally, you just flow with it.
Here’s the simple three-step meditation process in a nutshell, with a little explanation to help you understand why this kind of meditation is so effective and powerful in solving business problems and reducing stress. Follow these three simple steps and you’ll get the most out of it, and I’ll bet you start doing it on a regular basis when your brain locks and you’re stressed out:
STEP ONE
STOP WHATEVER YOU’RE DOING! NOW!
Stop right now! Stop everything, turn the computer off—get out of the office! Right in the middle of the day? Yes! You must interrupt the obsessive ruminating that dug your brain into a deep rut. And yes, you will probably feel guilty, like you’re escaping from reality, or wasting company time, just procrastinating, indecisive, or a loser because you can’t do the job in front of you. Self-criticism goes with the territory, it’s natural and expected. Stop anyway. Get out of the office, leave, go, right now!
STEP TWO
DON’T “THINK,” ACT ON A WHIM, SPONTANEOUS!
Do something impulsive, unpredictable, unplanned, unusual, weird, odd, inspiring, nutty, artistic and creative! Anything other than what you‘re doing! Something that sounds like it’s coming from deep within you—a voice, muse, spirit, artist, child, whatever, even if you’re not really sure what, listen to it. And when you do it, shift gears—you should get totally and absolutely and completely into whatever you’re going to do, and exit the scene of the problem.
STEP THREE
GET OUT OF THE OFFICE! YES, ESCAPE! DISAPPEAR! GO!
It could be as simple as a slow walk through a new exhibit at the museum. An opening at an offbeat art gallery. Just sit and contemplate one work of art. Or go sit by a waterfall in a favorite vest pocket park and read a novel. Or work your way through the great masterpieces in Sister Wendy’s Book of Meditations, stopping occasionally to explore what art means in your life.
Your meditation could also be a short trip to the local library. museum, or your familiar book store—grab a few magazines that you’ve never opened before. Yes, never! Read them over a latte in their coffeeshop. Buy one. Maybe take in a movie, or just watch some animals in the zoo, street musicians, birds on a park pond. You might go shopping, buy a surprise gift for someone you’ve never given a gift, maybe don’t tell them it was from you. Do something unusual, pleasurable, and spontaneously.
PROVE THAT YOU REALLY CAN
MAKE ANYTHING INTO A MEDITATION
Isn’t that what meditation is all about? Remember, anything can be a meditation—you simply focus on one thing and one thing only, and cut out all the distractions, like the problem you can’t solve because your brain locked up.
Except here you’re reversing the steps: First, you stop and get away from all the distractions of your office, all the stuff that has your brain locked up. Then, you focus on something else—anything—something different from what you’ve been focusing on, something creative. That’s your meditation: Focusing on the new thing while putting time and distance between the frustration and the next creation.
HERE’S WHY YOUR “DATE WITH AN ARTIST” WORKS
Why does this work to reduce stress and help you find creative solutions? That’s very simple, and once you understand why this works you’ll be able to do it more consciously and more frequently in the future. And as paradoxical as it sounds, you’ll want to program these unexpected creative journeys into your workday knowing they will increase your productivity in the long run.
When Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way hit the stores in the early nineties, she gave millions of stressed-out people permission to escape the pressures, stop in the middle of a busy workday, and take a long break. Cameron’s the genius who identified the “artist date.”
This is probably not new to you. It’s certainly not rocket science. And you don‘t need a mega-ton MRI to test the idea. If you’ve ever made up some excuse and snuck out of the office in the middle of a stressful day after your brain locked up, as I often did, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
YES, YOU’RE STUCK IN THE “WRONG BRAIN!”
Cameron put on paper what we’ve been doing all along. This is how the brain works psychologically, and naturally—your brain has two hemispheres that operate like networked computers, with each handling different tasks.
The Logical Brain: The left-brain is the rational brain , the worker-bee. Cameron calls it the “logic brain.” This half of your brain is happiest and most efficient when working like an unemotional computer, thinking objectively and logically. It loves analyzing, counting, planning things step-by-step, verbalizing procedures.
However, if family problems are affecting you emotionally, or you’re tired, overloaded and behind schedule, for example, stress builds, frustration takes over and this amazing left-brain computer will lock up. You can’t think straight—so you have to reboot your “computer!”
The Artist Brain: The other hemisphere of the brain is the creator, the inventor, the innovator—it thinks out-of-sequence, in images, ideas, dreams, metaphors and concepts, always synthesizing, searching for patterns, making connections, linking the pieces.
This Inner Artist naturally functions outside the everyday “real” world of business facts, scientific data and concrete evidence, envisioning and creating new realities. Unfortunately, over-loading the logical left-brain Thinker will also shut down the right-brain creative hemisphere.
SCHEDULE REGULAR ARTIST DATES
 When your brain locks up, you can pry open the lock by taking your inner creative source on an “artist date!” Yes, I know this sounds bizarre, weird, even childish—especially for some hot-shot executive, banker or attorney in a three-piece suit on a corner office on the 43rd floor of a skyscraper … but trust me, it works, it’s fun, it’s productive! And it’s a very simple:
So you’re blocked: Time to take your Inner Artist on a date. “But what exactly is an artist date?” asks Cameron. Well, here’s her structured version: “An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers. You cannot take anyone on this artist date but you and your inner artist, a.k.a. your creative child. That means no lovers, friends, spouses, children—no taggers-on—of any stripe.”
That’s the structured version. A great way to chill out, get back in touch with your Inner Creator, and restart the creative juices on a regular basis.
OLD MOVIES, BOWLING, ANTIQUE SHOPPING,
ETHNIC FOOD, GOSPEL SINGING & MUSEUMS,
Here’s another approach: You can use this same basic meditation anytime, impulsively—when you’re working in the middle of the day and your brain freezes. When you know you can’t solve an important problem and you’re certain you’re wasting your time.
Just say to your Inner Artist: “Hey, let’s get out of here. Let’s go on a date, right now, this very minute, stop what we’re doing because not much is happening anyway, quietly sneak out of the office and go on a date.” Then head for the nearest exit, fast! And don’t think about it for long because your logical brain is certain to try talking you out of it!
Cameron’s description gets to the core of the psychology here: “Your artist is a child. Time with a parent matters more than the money spent. A visit to a great junk store, a solo trip to the beach, an old movie seen alone together, a visit to an aquarium or an art gallery … a sortie out to a strange church to hear gospel music, to an ethnic neighborhood to taste foreign sights and sounds—your artist might enjoy any of these. Or your artist might enjoy bowling.”
IT’S NOT WHAT YOU DO …
JUST THAT YOU ARE DOING IT
But remember, what you do on your artist date is not as important as doing it. Get away from the frustrations and distraction, let go and relax, then focus on some little adventure with your inner creative artist. It’ll work anytime, and you’ll quickly discover that these times of “doing nothing” will increase your productivity as well as your peace of mind in the long-run—and that, my friends, is what this unique meditation is all about.

About the author

Paul Farrell

Dr. Farrell is a Behavioral Economist. His books include The Millionaire Code; The Millionaire Meditation: Stress Management for Wall Street, Corporate America & Entrepreneurs; The Zen Millionaire; The Winning Portfolio; Expert Investing on The Net; Mutual Funds on The Net; and The Lazy Person's Guide to Investing. He also published 1,643 columns on DowJones-MarketWatch and for years was their #1 traffic-generating columnist. Before the Internet, he edited & published FNX: Future News Index, a financial newsletter for stock market traders. Earlier he was a Wall Street investment banker with Morgan Stanley, Executive Vice President of the Financial News Network; and Associate Editor of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. He has a Doctorate in Psychology, Juris Doctor, Masters in Regional Planning and Bachelor of Architecture. He worked on the Esalen organic farm and served in the U.S. Marine Corps as Staff Sergeant in aviation computer technology.

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