Taoism at its core is about living life with harmony and ease, and with as much joy in the process as possible. Most people have heard of Tai Chi and Chi Kung but there are numerous techniques within the Taoist system that can help both you and your creativity to flourish. The following extended offering utilises a sampling of Taoist tools and tricks to enliven your creativity, increase your clarity and concentration, and bring energy and renewed motivation for your writing.
Taoist techniques such as pressing acupressure points or massaging the internal organs, can offer instant, on-the-spot relief from inner torment, creative or otherwise, and enhance all aspects of the creative process. No matter what thwarts your progress or impedes your life, rather than twist yourself into knots, utilising the practices of the Tao gently unravels any self-imposed resistance and allows you to drop your energy into the moment, beginning anew.
Taoism the philosophy (not the confusing attempt at a new religion), developed in China, and with the plentiful exercises ranging from Tai Chi to inner alchemy, offers a beautifully succinct template for living. Techniques that can be practiced this instant can give you wonderful and effective ways to increase your creativity and overcome the challenges of a writer’s day.
Taoist practices are derived from ancient techniques rooted in the processes of nature, which have been refined and integrated into a highly-accessible system for well-being. Working directly with your life force or chi, the techniques increase flow through the meridian system of the body, in turn influencing and restoring your entire being to a condition of harmony.
There is something profoundly soothing about practicing Tai Chi, Chi Kung, or any of the soft martial arts, meditations and Taoist healing techniques. It awakens within you a sense of your true nature, your inner being, which is of course the very place from which you express yourself creatively. Life flows more smoothly, and even through tempestuous times, you can handle things with more grace.
When practiced regularly, your chi flows through your body and you feel balanced and nurtured, with spontaneous bouts of joy, and perhaps more aptly, your creativity finds its own voice too. In the course of this gentle and liberating self-healing process (more details of which will follow), you may have moments when attending to the techniques – pressing acupressure points, massaging your organs, or even doing affirmations – of coming into contact with your deeper self, your inner being.
Even with disbelief or a little cynicism, if you trust this process however briefly, you will find yourself connecting with your own authentic spirit and being at one with it. Feeling at one with ourselves and our world is liberating, not to mention a far lovelier way to live. Although I will elaborate more fully on the many correlations and specific techniques for writers and artists to enhance their creativity through the Tao, for now here is a little sampling of on-the-spot techniques to help you through your working day.
For Increased Energy
The image of a writer propping themselves up at their writing desk while swigging what may now be their fifth cup of coffee isn’t too far-fetched for many, and though I’m the last person to advocate banishing of the wonder bean, there are ways to increase your energy without resorting to another cup of Joe.
Drumming the Skull: Relax your shoulders and cover your ears with your palms, with the middle fingers touching the base of the skull on the area known as the ‘Jade Pillow’, which is the cavity area under the external occipital protuberance. The heavenly drum means the head, while the Jade Pillow (Yu Zhen) is the name of a cavity located on the back of your head under the protruding ridge of bone.
Place your index fingers on your middle fingers and snap them down with force, hitting your head, roll all over the rear of your skull and ‘drum’ with your fingers, generating a drumming sound in the brain cavity. When you do this exercise, do not let your ring and pinkie fingers touch your head as it will muffle the sound. Instead focus on the sound, and allow each beat bring your attention more fully to the vibrations in your skull and brain.
This technique, known as ‘banging the heavenly drum’ or ‘sound the heavenly drum’ (Ming Tian Gu), and is used to wake up your brain and stimulates your thinking processes. Beating the drum clears the mind, wakes up the brain and enhances your cognitive faculties. It is very useful when feeling your energy or concentration flagging and is also said to improve your hearing. When you are finished and take your hands off your ears and enjoy feeling like you just woke up refreshed and ready to work.
- As part of a head massage routine and for a quick mental pick-you-up, use your right (or left, if left-handed) forefinger and thumb pinch your nose at the top. Hold for 3 seconds, then released. Repeat 6 times to ease mental tiredness.
- An acupuncture point that never fails to bring a boost of energy is liver 3 (see image), which is found on top of each foot, where the tendons that run from between your big toes meet. Press here for two minutes on each foot for a swift pick-me-up.
Chi Kung Energiser: This simple Chi Kung exercise unblocks your meridians, restoring balance and boosting energy levels:
- Tap all over your head with your fingertips.
- Now stroke the inside of each arm, from armpit to fingertips, and then on the outside, from fingertips to shoulders.
- Tap the centre of your chest and then run your fingertips down your breastbone.
- Pat your hips and brush down the outsides of your legs, pass your hands over your feet and then continue up the insides of the legs.
- Repeat up to eight times.
For Clarity and Concentration
Settle yourself in your seat and breathe slowly and evenly.
- Soften your face, soften your chest and become aware of how you are holding yourself, lengthening your spine.
- Imagine that each of your vertebrae one by one from the sacrum to the base of the skull pulsating as if being filled with light.
- See your skull as the uppermost very large vertebra pulsating with light. See the whole spinal column from sacrum to skull pulsating with light as you breathe in and out.
- Now visualise a clear diamond turning in your brain – this technique was taught to me by wayward Taoist Stephen Russell, and has a simultaneously energising and calming effect on the body and also increases your ability to concentrate on your creative work.
Use this acupressure sequence to alleviate stress before a deadline:
- Become aware of your breath and breathe slowly and evenly.
- Press the soft spot between the hand and the thumb to alleviate tension.
- Tap the side of the eyes to reduce headaches and tension behind the eyes.
This is a martial arts technique and is very effective when you feel your motivation waning.
- Stand with your legs far apart and knees softly bent (never take your knee past your ankle to prevent injury).
- Then curling each hand into a fist, drum up and down your quadriceps, hard enough to stimulate the meridians but obviously, not so hard you hurt yourself. [Insert disclaimer for the hard of thinking here].
For Banishing Creative Anxiety
According to the Taoist system, anxiety about your writing or creative work is often a sign of weakened kidney (water) chi. To help your kidneys relax use your thumbs to press the acupuncture point kidney 3, which is found in the hollow directly behind your inner ankle joint. Press so you feel an ache radiate through your ankle region, which should help reduce feelings of anxiety. Another point that is useful in combination with this is stomach 36, which is found lateral to the shin bone just below the edge of your knee, and when pressed with kidney 3 helps increase your motivation too (by warming the water of the kidneys).
For all of the Above: T’ai Chi
Although definitely deserving of its own post, a five-minute, or even two-minute, tai chi practice is a wonderful way to improve both your writing flow and flow of chi. Writers so frequently spend too long sat at their desks, which isn’t good physically or mentally. To have your mind buzzing with inspiration again and body energised and relaxed too, try this simple tai chi warm-up with Master Lam or this beautiful Kuan Yin Chi Kung Warm up with Anamarta.
During tai chi, your mind can flow more creatively; you are relaxed and the internal chatter that thwarts and distracts you stills, bringing you creativity and calm. Through the graceful movements, your body becomes lose, in turn loosening your resistance to your writing and allowing you to also relax into the process, enhancing your creativity.