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Settle Stories to run Path to Creativity mindfullness retreat

PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 September 2015

Zen master Thich Nhat Hann and senior Buddhist student Sita Brand, director of Settle Stories

Zen master Thich Nhat Hann and senior Buddhist student Sita Brand, director of Settle Stories


Does mindfulness matter when it comes to unleashing your inner creativity?

Walt Disney was an early adopter of meditation in the workplace, believing it led to a measureable increase in creativity.

His forward-thinking idea continues to chime with many today, most notably those in the arts but also in less obvious corners of commerce too.

‘General Mills (the company behind brands like Green Giant, Haagen-Dazs, Jus-Rol and Nature Valley) is another organisation where improved innovation has resulted from meditation rooms being made available to staff,’ explained Sita Brand, director of North Yorkshire-based arts and heritage charity Settle Stories .

‘Google has an in-house mindfulness program called Search inside Yourself and has built a labyrinth for mindful walking meditations to improve creativity. And here at Settle Stories we use mindfulness in the office on a daily basis, helping us to brainstorm ideas and conquer our creative challenges.’

With this in mind (as it were), the charity is hosting a three-day retreat this month in the idyllic Dales village of Airton. It hopes The Path to Creativity will enable creatives from a range of disciplines to practice mindfulness and meditation to promote innovative thinking and enhance creativity.

The retreat is being led by Sita and psychotherapist (and poet) Pete Armstrong, two senior Buddhist students of Zen master Thich Nhat Hann, a world-renowned teacher of mindfulness, who have both hosted retreats nationwide and practised Buddhism for almost 20 years.

‘Far from being a passing fad, meditation and mindfulness have their basis in proven science about how our brains work,’ said Sita. ‘Put simply, meditation activates the creative juices. To understand how, we can look back at the brain’s evolution.’

In the beginning, she says, the brain dealt with survival and this part – the reptilian – only processes things essential for human survival. Next, our limbic system brain evolved to deal with our emotions, motivations and memories.

If the reptilian is busy dealing with immediate danger or the limbic system with stress or emotions, our neocortex – the newest part of our brain dealing with creative thinking, visioning, problem solving and strategising – is left unnourished.

‘Mindfulness and meditation have side effects which have been shown to reduce the reactivity of the reptilian brain and limbic system,’ Sita added. ‘Moreover, they stimulate the neocortex, improve emotional intelligence and allow the creative brain to flourish.

‘When we succeed in training the mind to calm down, our ideas become more vivid and we find clarity in what and how we communicate as artists. Using mindfulness, we improve concentration and focus the mind’s attention on the subject at hand.’ w

The non-residential Path to Creativity retreat runs from September 22nd-25th, 10am-5pm, at Airton Meeting House and costs £180 (including lunch). For further information, visit


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