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How Artists and Meditation Practitioners Explore Consciousness

As my masters thesis research evolves, I'm reaching out to the community in hopes of getting some feedback. Below is the "background" research for my thesis proposal (basically, an extremely abbreviated lit review). One thing that I would like to do it to open this up to creative pursuits as a whole (right now this research has a heavy emphasis on visual arts, such as painting).

I would be interested to hear what you guys think, and if you have looked into such topics, what resources you would recommend checking out. Issues of art theory, neuropsychology, and religious studies are way outside my typical line of research, so any insight would be greatly appreciated. I can also supply a detailed bibliography if you are interested.

Thank you!


The purpose of my thesis is to articulate the complementary aspects of artistic creation and meditation as they relate to the investigation of consciousness. In the act of creating, artists probe consciousness in order to reinterpret it. I will explore how meditation enriches the artist’s process, as meditation practitioners purposefully observe their mind in order to develop deeper levels of awareness. In addition, meditation has been shown to increase creativity (Cowger & Torrance, 1982; So & Orme-Johnson, 2001), empathy (Lutz et al, 2008; Hoffman, Grossman & Hinton, 2011), and foster new levels of neuropsychological processes (Blows, 2004). By strengthening attributes which help artists more deeply engage with their mind and consciousness, meditation may be used to refine and enhance the possibilities of artistic production.

The brain is constantly solving problems, seeking essential information within an ever-changing environment. According to Zeki (1999) artists are involved in an analogous process — when they attempt to represent objects as they really are, they are extracting information about the essential aspects of the visual world. Essentially, the creative process is an enhanced and refined version of the normal capacities that are needed to test and navigate reality. In this way, the artist is deeply involved in the growth of visual meaning, where the constructions of imagination help to inform the vision of others beyond their predetermined assumptions and perceptions (Gilmour, 1986). Hagman (2010) argues that when the artist takes part in the act of creative production, he or she is no longer thinking solely within the boundaries of the individual mind, rather the artist is functioning within a transitional field that involves the inward self and an externalized self that is emerging in the physical work of art.

I will examine how a deeper awareness of these boundaries of consciousness, fostered by meditation practice, can lead artists to develop more sophisticated sensitivity toward themselves, their work, and the world around them. This is possible because meditation involves the examination of intrasubjectivity, exploring the nature and substance of consciousness by turning consciousness inward upon itself. I will use the framework of integralism, a cross-disciplinary, cross-traditional approach to the understanding of consciousness, which asserts that first-person modes of investigation, such as meditation, are necessary for heightened self-awareness (Sarath, 2006).

Bringing together art theory, neuropsychology, creativity and consciousness studies, and studies of wisdom traditions, my thesis will offer compelling evidence for why meditation can enhance the artistic process. My goal of this research is to demonstrate meditation’s relevancy to self expression, and encourage the adoption of this ancient, contemplative practice by contemporary artists and the public as a whole.


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