Saturday, April 21, 2007

INTERVIEW: Eric Maisel - Ten Zen Seconds (1)

Today, it is my honor to interview internationally known author, speaker and creativity coach Eric Maisel, Ph.D., as he tells us about his new book, Ten Zen Seconds. We will be discussing his new approach to mindfulness as it applies to creative people with busy lives.

Ten Zen Seconds is structured around 12 incantations (phrases, similar to affirmations, that do a particular kind of inner work). When combined with a specific kind of mindful deep breathing, these incantations are used in a variety of circumstances to promote a greater sense of calm, focus and inner strength. [For an overview of Ten Zen Seconds, click HERE to read an extended interview with Eric Maisel.]

Those of us who choose to make creativity an important part of our everyday lives, perhaps even a source of livelihood, experience the challenges of making meaningful work while responding to the demands of the marketplace and a daily domestic routine.

Here, Eric offers practical suggestions for using Ten Zen Seconds to address these challenges.

KP: Welcome, Eric. Thank you for stopping by the Quiet Little Life, today.

Your book Ten Zen Seconds includes many personal anecdotes from clients and test subjects describing the ways they have incorporated practices from the book into their daily lives. As a busy author and creativity coach how do you, personally, use the Ten Zen Seconds breathing and meditation techniques to bring added meaning and focus to your work?

EM: I like to create "islands of mindfulness" that are qualitatively "more mindful" than the rest of the day. Like everyone, I am doing one thing after another and trying to pay attention to details, do good work, and get tasks checked off my to-do list. Through all of this I am mindful, but situations arise where I want to be "more mindful" than ordinary, because the situation is more meaningful.

It might, for instance, be a scheduled phone conversation with an editor or literary agent in which the fate of some book is determined: before this "more meaningful" event in my daily routine I will use incantation 1, "I am completely stopping," and actually stop—not slow down, but stop—remember to expect nothing (incantation 2), and name as my work "Get clear on my agenda," "Make a good list of questions," etc. I use the TZS technique to demarcate my activities, adding "extra mindfulness" where and when I feel it’s needed.

KP: We live in a world of expectations. Our clients, families, bosses, community groups, even we, ourselves,expect that we will fulfill our responsibilities and produce reliable outcomes. Yet, in order to create original, meaningful work we often must release all expectations and mindfully create in the moment. This duality can lead to stress. Calling on your background in philosophy and psychology, how would you recommend that one resolve this apparent paradox when using Incantation 2 "I expect nothing"?

EM: It is easy enough to see how "unreasonable" expectations would produce stress. By why should we be so wary of holding "reasonable" expectations, for instance that our editor, who has loved everything of ours she’s seen, will love our next book, or that our next painting, in which we are demanding nothing new of ourselves, will turn out as well as our last paintings? One vital reason is that such expectations do not allow for changing circumstances and genuine process.

What if we are already "beyond" our current painting style and are just going through the motions with our current painting? Our growth process, which we naturally want to cultivate, is at odds with the life of this painting and what is likely to happen is that we will look at the painting, realize that we do not want to paint this sort of thing any longer, and move on.

If we were holding the "reasonable" expectation that the painting ought to turn out just fine, we would be disappointed and might not even be able to recognize the moment for what it is, the signal of a growth spurt. When we "expect nothing," then we can not only accept the "death" of this painting without pain but be equal to the moment and open up to our next work. It is exactly for such reasons that we want to "expect nothing."

KP: I have found the customizable Incantation 3 "I am doing my work" to be particularly enlightening. As I named the activities I was engaged in, at any given moment, I began to realize how often I found myself multitasking. How might this incantation be customized to reflect the necessity for occasional multitasking in the course of a busy creative person’s day?

EM: There are two kinds of multitasking, the kind where you are doing one thing, then a different thing, then yet a different thing, one right after the other; and the sort where you are actually doing two things at once, like talking on the phone while you’re checking your email.

For the first sort, the idea of "book-ending" each task, so as to set it off from the one before it and the one after it, can prove very useful. You use incantation 1, "I am completely stopping," and the name-your-work incantation, incantation 3, when you start the task, then you use incantation 3 again, this time to "put the task behind you"—for instance, "Done with that letter"—and incantation 12, "I return with strength," to ready yourself for the next, maybe completely different task. For that other kind of multi-tasking—well, we should all stop doing that, as it is the very opposite of "being present"!

KP: I often tell the singers I teach that awareness of breathing is foundational to building a healthy, powerful, flexible voice. How might a busy singer, with limited time to prepare, incorporate Ten Zen Seconds techniques into a regular practice routine, which already includes stretches, breathing and vocal exercises, plus preparation of repertoire?

EM: The first step is always to go through the twelve incantations, slowly and mindfully, and find the one or two that feel most useful and resonant. It is very difficult, verging on impossible, to incorporate all twelve in a regular way into your life, but it isn’t hard at all to incorporate one, two, or even three.

For a singer—for all performers—incantation 6, "I embrace this moment," is a very important and powerful one, because many performers are, because of performance anxiety, actually "wanting to be elsewhere" and wishing they were elsewhere, and incantation 6 helps remind them to surrender to the fact that they are where that they are and that they might even experience the moment as joyful!—especially if they add on incantation 9, "I am open to joy," to remind themselves of that possibility.

KP: Eric, thank you for your thoughtful answers. I appreciate the insights you've shared.
To read other bloggers interviews with Eric Maisel about "Ten Zen Seconds" CLICK HERE.

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

1 comment:

  1. Kay and Eric, this information is practical and useful for the everyday practice of pulling up our creative efforts and then going further to put that work out into the world. Thank you, Kay, for the thoughtful questions you asked.

    Janet Grace Riehl, author "Sightlines: A Poet's Diary,"