Lessons from the sub-continent
WHAT A SABBATICAL IN INDIA CAN DO FOR YOUR CREATIVITY
September 2, 2015
It was Sunday, 5.30am, and the golden sun was rising. On top of a small mountain, sitting in the shadow of a shrine and surrounded by fifty people, there was complete silence. As the sun peeked over the hills in front of us, the mist in the valley slowly evaporated, exposing the jungle and the lake below. A gong chimed.
I was in “God’s Own Country”, Kerala, India. For the past week I was awake before dawn, following a strict routine at the Sivananda yoga ashram. Rising from a mattress on the floor, I indulged in three hours of meditation, four hours of yoga, lectures, swimming, and cleaning. By the time I hit the mattress again at 10.30pm I was tired, but calm and happy.
The daily routine at Sivananda Yoga Ashram, Kerala, India
Now back in London and back to work, I realise just how much my time in India has reshaped not only my life, but my working style for the better. Here are some of the practices I picked up on my travels:
MAKING TIME FOR PEACE OF MIND
Trying to meet short deadlines and high standards often leaves designers tied to their desk in a panic. “Pushing through” is a common term – working and working until you find a solution. Quite often I’d find myself mentally drained and unable to think. Learning meditation taught me to read my mind’s signals. When you begin to feel stressed, take a break. Switch off your phone, go for a walk, get away from that screen and clear your head. Robert J. Kriegel has shown that shifting problems to the back burner during downtime allows you to move your thoughts from the logical left brain to the creative right brain. So, even though you are ‘taking time out’, you are actually giving your brain time to process and develop ideas.
A boatman takes a break in the backwaters of Kerala
BEAUTY CAN BE FOUND IN CHAOS
Anyone who has been to India will tell you thats it’s absolutely crazy. At times, it feels like nothing makes sense, and it can leave you feeling bewildered. Like the haze of the creative process, there are times when you are extremely frustrated. But, if you relax and stay open-minded to the experience, something beautiful will often present itself. In a grey, polluted highway you may find a cow decorated in pink and orange glory. So, when your creative thinking feels chaotic, learning to relax and go with it means something interesting might just pop up.
Chaos: The vibrant market in “The Pink City” – Jaipur, Rajasthan
YOGA + CREATIVITY
Every morning I wake up at 6am and practice an hour of yoga before breakfast. It stretches my body, clears my mind, and prepares me for the day ahead. In Yoga, Art, and the Use of Intention, Karen Gibbons explains that “yoga practitioners have brain patterns that correlate with those necessary for creativity. This includes alpha waves that appear when the mind is relaxed and alert as well as measurements that correlate with novel ideas and insights (Davis, 2012)”. Every now and then, do some yoga. It doesn’t have to be an hour a day and it doesn’t have be at sunrise…
…But I’d recommend it. Since that morning in India, I have seen some brilliant sunrises!
Katie Kerr is an Associate at Hoxby who lives and works in the depths of the East End. Specialising in visual-storytelling, she has worked on a wide range of projects – from brand campaigns for The FA, The View from the Shard and World Vision, to logotypes for digital start-ups and fashion brands, to letterpress music posters for Nashville’s finest. Originally from New Zealand, she loves to travel – and can recommend a good, cheap restaurant wherever you’re going!