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Mindful : June 2017
BOOKS how mindfulness and mind-wandering come together: turning inward and paying close attention to what’s going on in your mind, while it’s running off and fantasizing in both positive and negative ways.” Creativity is a complex process, which involves several interacting cognitive systems. “ When we look at the neuroscience of creativ- ity,” said Kaufman, “the system we use a lot in school is the executive attention network, which gives us the ability to focus on the outside world. But that’s not where creativity comes from. It comes from the imagination network, whose functions strike at the core of human existence—our ability to construct an ongoing sense of self, to get in touch with emotions, and to have compassion for others. Those are the things that make us human, not just our abil- ity to be machines and focus on other people’s goals. When it comes to creativity, the executive network and the imagination network usually harmonize ver y well together.” Something shifted in me during the third day of the retreat. After laboring over a misbe- gotten painting of the exit sign in my dormitory, I suddenly felt the urge to do something sensual and started painting a bare-breasted woman with a long, flowing multicolored skirt. At the end of the day, Barbara stopped by and her eyes lit up. “I leave you alone for a minute,” she said, “and look what happens.” The next morning after the 6:30 a.m . medi- tation, I took a walk in the woods and suddenly saw paintings every where. The lonely oak beside a meandering trail headed nowhere. The vain blackbird fluttering its wings and shrieking to be noticed. The soft, erotic curves of the sun- flecked hills in the distance. It was exhilarating, as if I were having an enchanting psychedelic vision without drugs. Then, suddenly, this voice came into my head, saying, “ Who are you kidding, Hugh? Why are you wasting your time on such trivia? Shouldn’t you be doing something more practical?” It sounded like my father the day I told him I was thinking about majoring in art history in college. “No way,” he fumed. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. How’re you going to make a living with an art history degree?” As it happened, I majored in English instead, but it creeped me out that somehow I had internalized his nar- row-minded view of art. Later that day, in a Q & A session with the → PHOTOGRAPHBYCATHERINEMACBRIDE/STOCKSY June 2017 mindful 61 creativity