Ballard: Finding a quiet place can unleash creativity

May 25, 2014 

When our son, Blake, was in middle school, he had a class called Meditation and Prayerfulness right after lunch. His teacher used that the class to encourage the students to be quiet, re-group and meditate. She lowered the lights in the classroom and played soothing music. She asked them to put their heads down on their desks and meditate on positive things.

One night, Blake was discussing with us what happened in his meditation period. He confessed that many of the students, including him, sometimes fell asleep. I asked him what the teacher did while they were meditating. He said she walked around the room quietly saying certain words to create images that would encourage them to invite all the clutter in their minds to leave.

“What kind of words?” I asked, very interested in this meditation class as I have always needed to remove mind clutter. With that, Blake began to describe that particular day’s guided meditation.

“Think of a happy place,” his teacher urged in a soothing voice while walking up and down the aisles of the classroom. “Is it your home that makes you feel safe, happy and secure? Create a visual in your mind of that home that evokes peace and tranquility in you. Can you now see your house? Is it brick or stucco?” she continued.

Debra and I were mesmerized. In fact, I could clearly understand how envisioning someplace where you feel safe and secure would create a peaceful, happy feeling. I remember thinking that was a wonderful idea for a teacher to offer tools of relaxation at such an early age.

All of us have times in our lives when everything seems to be spinning out of control around us. I know that you know the feeling. It’s like being caught up in the middle of wind storm grasping with all our might to find something to anchor us. It’s hard to tackle one problem before another pops up. It’s during these times I have to learn to relax and think of a happy place.

Just the other day I experienced one of those out-of-control kind of days. I didn’t know which impending issue to address first. I felt as though I was attempting to slay a dragon but, try as I might, it still relentlessly charged toward me.

I finally decided to leave it and everything else behind and go for a long bike ride. Sometimes, I don’t know exactly where my happy place is but riding my bike certainly helps me get there.

I love my bike rides for many reasons. Of course, the first is for physical health. The second reason also relates to my health but from a mental standpoint. With each rotation of the pedal, my mind clears of all the daily clutter that’s piled up within it, making space for my creative thoughts to rush in. Most of my column ideas are conceived on my bike rides as are many of my paintings, design ideas and other creative concepts.

Before I knew it, I was on the banks of the Ocmulgee River. I stopped to get a drink of water from my water bottle. It was a beautiful, sunny day. There was a slight breeze that quietly brushed across my face.

Propping on my bike using one foot to secure myself, I glanced at the muddy waters of the river. I’ve seen the river all of my life but on this particular day I decided to take a much closer look. On its surface, I could see the reflections of the beautiful blue sky and fluffy white clouds.

The river’s current slowly made its way down stream. It was almost hypnotizing. Every so often when the wind would randomly pick up, the water would slightly shift in a different direction causing a brief confusion of sorts on the water’s surface. The ripples were erratic for a few seconds before slowly readjusting back into their natural flow. No matter how the breeze affected its surface, the river always, without questioning it, knew to go back to its natural rhythm.

Looking further down the river, I noticed a tree limb had fallen and become lodged. As the slowly flowing water approached it, the ripple effect again changed. It was as if the river knew something was in its path, but continued to flow right past it anyway. Only for a second was its rhythm altered before continuing to flow downstream.

How resilient a river is, I thought to myself. We can all learn a lesson from the waters of the river. Although many elements and objects alter its flow, it never varies from flowing toward its destination. It handles whatever is placed in its path, deals with it and then moves on. Before I knew it, I had watched the river for longer than I had intended. I decided I needed to get back on my bike but not before noticing that during the time watching the river, my chaotic schedule and cluttered mind had been soothed and refreshed. Without realizing it, the river had helped me to meditate and I was much more relaxed.

Just like our lives, a river is never totally still. It is always in a constant state of natural motion. It doesn’t know where it’s going, but it doesn’t question it either. It trusts the natural flow of things to lead it to where it’s supposed to be.

That particular afternoon, the banks of the river had been my happy place. It helped me to re-focus. It swept unimportant clutter from my mind. It helped me pause and think about life. It afforded me an opportunity to meditate and, because of it, I left invigorated, refreshed and ready to tackle the things that are thrown in my natural path.

We need to open our eyes and see all the lessons that the things around us can teach. We have to find our happy place and visit it often. Just like Blake’s teacher suggested all those years ago, our happy places are all around us. We just have to pause and relax to really see them. I suppose we are never too old to learn!

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