10 Fascinating Insights into Creativity


1. We say we like creativity, but we really don’t

In the United States we are raised to appreciate the accomplishments of inventors and thinkers—creative people whose ideas have transformed our world. It’s all a lie. This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it. Studies confirm what many creative people have suspected all along: People are biased against creative thinking, despite all of their insistence otherwise.

2. It’s not mess — it’s creativity

Historically, the evidence has favored the tidy camp. Cleanliness, as the proverb says, is next to godliness. But if messiness is so bad, why do so many people tolerate, and even embrace, it?

3. Mental tricks to jumpstart creativity while waiting in line

Breathe, look around, eavesdrop. Your next big breakthrough could be one observation away.

4. Wearing headphones blocks creativity by blocking out real life

They may be a modern day emblem of the ideas-generating classes but the wearing of headphones is stifling original thinking by blocking out real life, one of British advertising’s most revered figures has claimed.

5. Specific smells, colors, and sounds help unleash your creativity

Smelling peppermint, turning up the volume, looking at plants, and smiling all enhance creativity.

6. The creative person’s hierarchy of needs

In a nutshell, as humans, our basic needs are: Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem and Self-Actualization. Creative people have additional needs. Recognizing these needs and making sure they are met are essential to applied creativity.

7. Unexpected ways to spark your creative genius

While a strike of creative genius can’t necessarily be forced, here are a few clever ways to get your juices flowing.

8. John Cleese on 5 factors to make your life more creative

In this excerpt from his fantastic 1991 lecture, John Cleese offers a recipe for creativity, delivered with his signature blend of cultural insight and comedic genius. Specifically, Cleese outlines “the 5 factors that you can arrange to make your lives more creative.”

9. Can trauma enhance creativity?

In addition to all the destructive consequences that may follow traumatic experience, some people say it also has power to encourage creative expression.

10. Drugs for Parkinson’s unleash creativity in some patients

In a bad news, good news story, specialists from around the world are reporting Parkinson’s disease patients are displaying new creative talents — presumably as an offshoot of medications for their condition.


How Does the Act of Writing Affect Your Brain?

Moreover, readers can literally “feel” good writing

(Click twice to enlarge the graphic)

How Does the Act of Writing Affect Your Brain

One of the most interesting details shared in the graphic above is the information about the Princeton University Study which demonstrated that the brain of a person telling a story and the brain a person listening to it can synchronise. The academic paper published by the researchers can be read on the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health website. The link that is possible between a storyteller and their audience, what the paper describes as “speaker–listener neural coupling” can be clearly seen in this image.

neural coupling 3

More fascinating research on storytelling and the brain has been conducted at Emery University. A study published in February 2012 found that a region of the brain important for sensing texture through touch, the parietal operculum, is also activated when someone listens to a sentence with a textural metaphor. The same region is not activated when a similar sentence expressing the meaning of the metaphor is heard. As Annie Murphy Paul explained her fantastic March 2012 essay Your Brain on Fiction, “while metaphors like ‘The singer had a velvet voice’ and ‘He had leathery hands’ roused the sensory cortex, phrases matched for meaning, like ‘The singer had a pleasing voice’ and ‘He had strong hands’ did not.”

Infographic source: BestInfographics.com

Many thanks to Aerogramme Studio

Neuroscience research “tool” becomes metaphysical bestseller

Rod Pennington didn’t set out to write an international bestseller. The Fourth Awakening novel was initially a marketing “tool” to identify spiritually advanced research participants for Jeffery A. Martin’s neuroscience research into non-symbolic consciousness. The first novel was so successful, however, it spawned a sequel (The Gathering Darkness) and The Fourth Awakening Chronicles, whose third installment was released recently.

Click this link to download free novel

The Fourth Awakening novel free downloadHow did a spiritual/metaphysical novel written to entice research participants end up No. 1 four years running in Amazon Kindle’s New Age/Mysticism category? It’s all Pennington’s fault. The veteran writer of multiple books and screenplays knew about Martin’s research into persistent non-dual awareness (also called enlightenment, persistent mystical state, transcendental consciousness). Martin, an interdisciplinary research professor who’s worked at Harvard, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and the Center for International Studies in California, just to name a few, was having difficulty locating subjects with deep meditation and consciousness-altering skills for his latest research project.

According to Martin, Pennington came up with the approach:  “One of the ideas that Rod had was ‘Hey, let’s write a book to do this. Maybe we create a fiction book, [because] fiction is something that’s read very broadly across the population. And if we weave enough stuff into that fiction book that resonates with people, these people will probably come out and contact us.’” Not long after The Fourth Awakening’s initial publication in 2009, Martin had his research subjects and Pennington had an international bestseller on his hands.

What is the Fourth Awakening?

The premise of The Fourth Awakening is that humanity has experienced three critical awakenings and is on the verge of another. Awakenings occur when something so profoundly changes the world that all of the old rules no longer apply. A powerful new order arrives, completely unexpected and without warning, and things are never the same again.

The First Awakening occurred approximately 200,000 years ago when Homo Sapiens emerged in East Africa, but it took another 150,000 years for things to begin to get interesting.

The Second Awakening saw Homo Sapiens become self aware. We developed spoken language, art in the form of cave paintings and crude figurines, and most importantly, a grasp of the spiritual nature of the world and ourselves. Fourteen thousand years ago, the recognizably modern forms of farming, metallurgy, ship building, and astrology all emerged at around the same time worldwide.

The Third Awakening began around 3,000 years ago with the rise of all modern religions as well as science. Between 800 – 400 BC, there was a religious explosion. The key events in the Old Testament occurred, from which emerged Judeo/Christian beliefs. At the same time, Taoism was followed by Confucianism in China, Shintoism in Japan, Hinduism and Buddhism in India, and later Islam. For the past 500 or so years the political power of religion has waned while the power of science has flourished. Knowledge hit a tipping point about 150 years ago. Universities began to switch from religious institutions to being based on the German research model. During the Third Awakening, the written word became increasingly commonplace.

The Fourth Awakening brings a new mode of being with it, one that goes beyond symbols and thought. According to Pennington and Martin, the number of individuals who can reach a state of non-symbolic thought (aka enlightenment) has reached critical mass. Their book likens this state to the Internet–a giant field of energy, full of information, open to anyone who has the right connection. For more, see the authors’ website.

How has Martin’s research shaped the series?

Working worldwide with over a thousand individuals skilled at achieving non-symbolic states of consciousness, Martin has identified a number of Enlightened Archetypes. The Fourth Awakening Chronicles is a series of short novellas based on the characters and concepts explored in The Fourth Awakening and its sequel.  Each novella features a person who has arrived at the Fourth Awakening. These Enlightened Archetypes include a world-class poker player who suddenly abandons the game, and a successful top executive who must leave his family to pursue enlightenment (as the Buddha did).

But where have these extraordinary people gone?  In the Chronicles, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Penelope Drayton Spence has been hired by two of the world’s richest men to interview enlightened people who may have arrived at the Fourth Awakening. The problem is, as fast she can locate a potential candidate, they have a nasty habit of mysteriously vanishing. While each Chronicle is a stand-alone episode that can be read independently, it is a part of a much larger and continuing story.

If you would like to learn more about or participate in Jeffery A. Martin’s research into non-symbolic consciousness, visit NonSymbolic.org.

6 Steps To Being More Creative

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Marc Lesser, CEO of SIYLI, Zen priest, and author of Know Yourself, Forget Yourself.marc-lesser-zen-priestFor most of my life I did not think of myself as creative at all. Then, many years ago, I started a greeting card company, despite that I had rarely purchased or sent greetings cards. My motivation was combining business with taking care of the environment, by making products from recycled paper. I found myself in a role where I needed to be very creative – in developing new products as well as how to distribute products. I also found that the act of leadership – my perspective about my role and the company’s strategy required tremendous creativity.

Creativity is important for many reasons. It is a path and process for not getting stuck in old habits and ineffective ways of seeing yourself and the world. Creativity can help with problem solving, with creating healthier relationships, and with having a healthier and happier life.

What I learned is that creativity isn’t something that you have or don’t have. It is something that you can nurture and develop. Most importantly, creativity can be a practice. This is especially true for me in my current role (as the CEO of the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute) of helping business leaders to be both more effective and happy.

Here are the 6 steps that I began using, and find I’m using every day, not only in my work but especially in my relationships and my life outside of work These practices can be used to support the changing of habits and creating new habits. I’d suggest making the practice of creativity a habit that can support other habits. Here are some guidelines:

  • Believe in your creativity – This is the first practice and probably most important. You might begin by thinking about or writing down three creative things you’ve done – something you have written or said or completed. Notice an area in which you feel creative; perhaps cooking, drawing, fixing things, gardening. Creativity can show itself in lots of small ways, such as the gifts we give, or the clothes we wear, or how we set the table. Just begin noticing and recognizing your own creativity.
  • Know your voice of judgment – Everyone I’ve ever known has an inner judge. It can be difficult to accept that having an inner critic is part of the human condition. The good news is that this inner voice just wants to protect us and keep us safe, and that you don’t need to be stuck with or thrown by these inner voices. Knowing this, try relaxing your inner judge. Give it a name. Be playful. Experiment. Despite your judgments, you have the ability to be creative.
  • Pay attention to details – By entering into the practice of creativity, you can begin to notice more of the details of everyday life. By paying more attention to details, you can become more present; your world can become more alive. It is in this presence and aliveness that creativity takes place. When you put your shoes on, which shoe do you put on first? What’s the color of your front door? How many emails do you receive and send each day? Or play with giving things different names. Look at a paper clip or a strawberry, as though seeing them for the first time. What might you call them? These types of details and experiments can open doors to seeing the world differently.
  • Ask dumb questions – Our desire to look good and smart can get in the way of creativity. Instead, ask questions, especially those that may seem obvious, or even dumb. Risk looking awkward. Be curious about your feelings and your motivations. Let yourself wonder how things work and why you and others talk and act the way you do. Let go of the need to look good, and allow yourself to be curious and at times awkward. This is another door to creativity. There are no dumb questions.
  • Practice Mindfulness – Mindfulness is a fancy word for paying attention and for being in the present moment – not ruminating about the past, nor worrying about the future. Mindfulness is a simple and powerful practice. Of course, reviewing the past and preparing for the future are important. And, being creative, happens in this moment. The practice of mindfulness is to over and over notice when your mind is wandering and to bring your attention back to the present. In this way we build our capacity for presence, and for creativity. Mindfulness can also mean to allow your attention to open, to consciously not focus on any one thing. This space, of intentionally expanding your attention can be a creative process.
  • Embrace Paradox – It seems that nearly everything about being a human being is a paradox. In my own life, I’m an introvert and I enjoy speaking in front of groups; I can be indecisive and make decisions quickly; I’m confident and vulnerable. What are some of your paradoxes? Instead of ignoring or pushing these contradictions away, try acknowledging them, and embracing them. An example of a paradox I find myself embracing and practicing with is – fight for change and accept what is. These appear to be completely opposed, yet, the starting point for changing habits is to notice the habits that we actually have.

Being more creative is a practice, a habit, and a process. A good way to begin is to notice how creative babies and young children are. Just the act of crawling, walking, and exploring can be enormously creative. Creativity is easy – just let yourself be more childlike, curious, open, and start by exploring any of the six practices I’ve outlined.

Marc Lesser is author of Know Yourself, Forget Yourself: Five Truths To Transform Your Work, Relationships, and Everyday Life. He is the CEO of the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI) and leads a weekly meditation group in Mill Valley.

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Book review: ZOR–Philosophy, Spirituality, and Science

Novel is excellent primer on current spirituality/metaphysics

ZOR spiritual novel metaphysical fiction Ray Clements

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It’s not often that you meet a Haitian dwarf who becomes your spiritual mentor. The author known as J.B. (Ray Clements) pulls it off with panache in “Zor.” This spiritual novel explores a wide range of scientific and metaphysical territory, creating a synthesis that’s interesting and eye opening. Although a bit didactic, the book’s subject matter is so wide ranging and well supported that the novel is an excellent primer on current spiritual/metaphysical philosophy.

Story:  “Am I truly happy or merely content?”  That is the question haunting Jonathan Brewster after a series of discussions with the Haitian dwarf named Zor. Forced to defend his way of life, Jonathan, a middle aged money manager from Boston, unexpectedly discovers the power of positive energy, quantum entanglement, the law of attraction, emotional addictions, neuron networks, placebos, vipassana meditation, Jung’s collective unconscious, Nietzsche, metta, and God. Drawn to a new reality, he restructures his world for the greater good, only to experience the ultimate betrayal. (From amazon.com)

Spiritual/metaphysical content: High. As mentor, Zor mixes neuroscience and psychology into his spiritual philosophy, making the point that our neuron networks–our brains–are the main obstacle to achieving true happiness. Clements says it is useless to fight our emotional addictions, but we can restructure our neuron networks. In other words, we can train our brains to establish behaviors that create a positive energy flow. Zor’s teachings range from quantum physics, MRI scans, and Noam Chomsky to the New Thought movement and a myriad of religious and metaphysical beliefs, and reference a number of books to substantiate his points.

Zor emphasizes personal ch’i (energy). He says that “Nothing is more insidious than negative energy. Once accepted, it festers and grows and contaminates your entire being.” He teaches Jonathan how to reject negative ch’i and get rid of the load that he (and everyone) carries.

My take:  Told in first person, Clements’ voice reminds me of Richard Bach: slightly preachy but always interesting, full of personal observations and insights. However, Zor has a dark side that never appears in Bach’s books nor in most spiritual/metaphysical novels. The plot is a bit darker than I would have expected, but the wisdom of Zor’s words rings true. And the insinuation of violence certainly keeps the story’s pace marching briskly forward.

The plot leaves much to be desired, however. The bulk of the conflict is simply two strong personalities clashing, but there’s no compelling reason why Jonathan can’t just walk away from Zor. The relationship is mentor and student, reminiscent of Robin Sharma’s The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. The difference is that mentor and student are not friends but often combatants in a battle of philosophical wills. A thin plot surfaces at the end of the book, an object lesson in how to apply positive energy, that works well enough to bring the story to a climax.

Despite the plot’s shortcomings, the book is well written, thoughtful, and full of wisdom, and Clements offers some original phrasing of well-established spiritual principles. For example, Zor notes that we are “mired in the purgatory of contentment” that keeps us from experiencing true happiness. He also points out that religion falls short because people worship the prophet instead of the prophet’s path. All in all, Zor is largely entertaining, insightful, and well worth the reader’s time.

ZOR: Philosophy, Spirituality, and Science, by Ray Clements
CreateSpace, 2012
Paperback, 258 pages
Buy at Amazon