I worry about the kids. The kids I know hardly have any time for themselves. They are always busy with school, homework, tuitions, tennis lessons, tabla lessons, and preparing for this or that exam. There is no unstructured time for them to just do what they feel like doing, or for just doing nothing. I suspect (just a hunch, no proof) that it could be causing these kids to be unimaginative, non-creative and dull. They need to take a time out. But that means they have to reduce the “academic” load on the kids. They are being burdened with too much stuff to learn, and in the end, they end up missing the essential bits. But that is an entire different tirade that I will not go into right now.
I believe that the ancients in India were so successful in being creative was because they meditated. Meditation is the ultimate time out. Of course, they could meditate because the culture allowed that sort of luxury. In general, our culture does not afford that luxury any more. Those who are too poor materially hardly can take a time out; you cannot meditate on an empty stomach. And those who are not materially poor are fairly caught up in a rat race to make more money and acquire more stuff; these have been brainwashed to believe that one’s self-worth is tied up with how much stuff they can get their hands on from the glitzy malls. You cannot meditate if you are too busy shopping.
Even if one does not go all the way to meditation, I think it is good to sit and relax and do nothing for a change. Just stare at the grass growing. It could make you more creative or whatever. But one should not just do stuff for instrumental reasons, I believe. Sometimes one should do things just for the heck of it. Taking time out is a luxury and one should indulge oneself from time to time. It is the reward for having worked and earned.
Right now I would like to ponder this old article from the Guardian UK titled “What’s the big idea?”.
Time out feeds the quietness of mind that is essential to creativity.
Experiments have shown that creative people have different brain patterns when actively creative. Colin Martindale, professor of psychology at the University of Maine, conducted tests on what he calls the ‘inspiration and elaboration phases’ of the creative process. That is the ability to be receptive to ideas and inspiration, and then to be able to focus and work on those ideas. While all participants – both creative and non-creative – were able to apply themselves to the elaboration phase, only the creative people were able to relax their minds enough to dream and let things come to them during the inspiration phase. Part of the trick of creativity is being able to move backwards and forwards between these two states of mind. And while the more creative people couldn’t do this to order during Martindale’s tests, they intuitively knew when it was right to be relaxed and open-minded and when it was time to be focused and concentrated.
It is not impossible to learn how to be more creative. Experiments have shown that just by encouraging people to relax, you can increase the number of ideas that they come up with. Certain forms of meditation are effective as a means of learning how to enter a creative mental state – one that is relaxed and receptive but also awake and alert.
Essentially, creativity is all about learning to listen to the unconscious and being able to cultivate that relaxed and alert time that is typical of meditation and dreaming. Very creative people may be able to do this intuitively, but it is important to realise that we were all born with creative minds.