Meditation – the third component of self-care – offers a host of benefits including reducing stress and reversing the ill effects of stress, improving mood, increasing creativity and reducing resistance. But one of the most significant benefits of meditation for writers is that it enhances empathy.
Writers are in the empathy business. When we write prose, we have to get inside the hearts and minds of our characters or the people we’re featuring to deeply understand what they feel, what they think, and thus why they do what they do. When we write poetry, we become another person, another being, sometimes even an inanimate object. Whatever we write, we need deep awareness of our readers so that we can craft our writing to affect them.
Consistent meditation deepens our capacity for empathy. EEG and fMRI brain scans of master meditators (Buddhist monks, lamas and nuns, for example) show increased activity in several areas of the brain including the insula and caudate – areas linked to empathy and maternal love.
Meditation also decreases activity in the orientation association area in the parietal lobe, which orients you in space and time and gives you a sense of self separate from the world. You wouldn’t want to permanently lose the ability to distinguish where you end and the world begins (and you won’t), but temporarily suspending that perception allows you to experience the All Is One perspective or a profound connection to the Divine.
Meditation gives you the opportunity to enter the creative flow (aka writer’s trance) and become who or what you will write about later.
In Creativity, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi identifies the disappearance of self-consciousness as a key characteristic of the flow state of peak creativity. He writes:
In everyday life, we are always monitoring how we appear to other people: we are on the alert to defend ourselves from potential slights and anxious to make a favorable impression. Typically this awareness of self is a burden. In flow we are too involved in what we are doing to care about protecting the ego… We might even feel that we have stepped out of the boundaries of the ego and have become part, at least temporarily, of a larger entity. The musician feels at one with the harmony of the cosmos, the athlete moves at one with the team, the reader of a novel lives for a few hours in a different reality. Paradoxically, the self expands through acts of self-forgetfulness. (p. 112-113)
Meditation will give you not only the opportunity to expand your self through self-forgetfulness in the moment, but a lasting enhancement of the essential writer’s gift – empathy.