It’s easy to underestimate boredom. The mental condition, after all, is defined by its lack of stimulation; it’s the mind at its most apathetic. This is why the poet Joseph Brodsky described boredom as a “psychological Sahara,” a cognitive desert “that starts right in your…
“The world Conard describes too often feels grim and soulless, one in which art and romance and the nonrenumerative satisfactions of a simpler life are invisible. And that, I realized, really is Conard’s world. “God didn’t create the universe so that talented people would be happy,” he said. “It’s not beautiful. It’s hard work. It’s responsibility and deadlines, working till 11 o’clock at night when you want to watch your baby and be with your wife. It’s not serenity and beauty.””—Conard, a major Romney donor, making a case for income inequality to Adam Davidson
This study is a clear indication that the advantages of particular types of meditation extend much further than simply relaxation. The findings support the belief that meditation can have a long-lasting influence on human cognition, including how we think and how we experience events.
Two ingredients of creativity
The study investigates the influences of different types of meditative techniques on the two main ingredients of creativity: divergent and convergent styles of thinking.
Divergent thinking Divergent thinking allows many new ideas to be generated. It is measured using the so-called Alternate Uses Task method where participants are required to think up as many uses as possible for a particular object, such as a pen.
Convergent thinking Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is a process whereby one possible solution for a particular probem is generated. This method is measured using the Remote Associates Task method, where three unrelated words are presented to the participants, words such as ‘time’, ‘hair’ and ‘stretch’. The particpants are then asked to identify the common link: in this case, ‘long’.
Analysis of meditation techniques
Colzato used creativity tasks that measure convergent and divergent thinking to assess which meditation techiques most influence creative activities. The meditation techniques analysed are Open Monitoring and Focused Attention meditation.
In Open Monitoring meditation the individual is receptive to all the thoughts and sensations experienced without focusing attention on any particular concept or object.
In Focused Attention meditation the individual focuses on a particular thought or object.
Different types of meditation have different effects
These findings demonstrate that not all forms of meditation have the same effect on creativity. After an Open Monitoring meditation the participants performed better in divergent thinking, and generated more new ideas than previously, but Focused Attention (FA) meditation produced a different result. FA meditation also had no significant effect on convergent thinking leading to resolving a problem.
The study focused on creativity immediately after each type of meditation. So don’t take this to mean focused meditations don’t have an effect on creativity, just no initial effect. This paper is free online for anyone here and is an easy read so I recommend reading the whole study.