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Meditation sketching: Brainstorming exercises
Meditation sketching: Brainstorming exercises
Mick McGee
Leadership Team
Growth Mindset.

Take a long, deep breath... Breathe in relaxation… Hold it for a moment… Now, exhale, slowly... Let out any tension… Feel your body relax into stillness between breaths... Do that 3 times, 10 jumping jacks, and a 30-second plank, and your brain will be ready for this post.

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We recently had an intriguing Talk-O Tuesday session (our weekly internal lunch meeting). We brain exercised, in a way. It was definitely different from our normal talking sessions, which can get quite heady and stimulating in their back and forth. 

For this session, our Talk-O moderator, Jiyoon, started by laying out some simple rules that set the stage for an interesting mind-bending journey. At least for me. Still not sure if it led to nirvana, or possibly somewhere more dark. Nevertheless, I couldn’t stop thinking about the experience and how others might find it useful for their own brainstorming and creativity workouts. 

The simple rules:

  • Sketch something that comes to mind once you hear the prompt. 

  • Don’t stop moving your pen/pencil until told to. 

  • You do not need to share anything that you create.


Would this even work? Would I feel more creative? Would it become easier over time? Such simple rules within a one-hour timeframe. That’s a long time to just sketch! (At least there was music.) Meetings are already too long. Now do it without talking and stay inside your own head. Go! 

So here are my sketches. I am definitely not a sketching artist. But I also feel no shame in sharing the results. I’ll do my best to describe each prompt, but I don’t quite remember most of them, which is an interesting aside, as I do recall feeling myself drifting deeply into each theme while sketching.



I’m just going to say the first prompt was “feet”. I don’t remember. But I do recall feeling somewhat mentally rigid as we got underway. Even my sketching space on the paper was cramped and almost pinching into the edge. Drawing the large foot did help break the mold and release my mind. Especially those toes.



Again, I don’t recall, but maybe, “cookies”? And my bad drawings look more like pizza and donuts than cookies. Maybe I was hungry. My favorite part is the big head/face (maybe also a cookie?) and the callouts. Some sort of bizarro Homer mumblings from the upside-down. 



This one feels like “danger”. My mind was definitely in transition at this point in our sketch exercises. I particularly like the comic strip style for giving it more of a story feeling. Also to make the danger feel not so dangerous. I mean, why am I drawing someone lunging at someone else with a knife? Questions should be asked. 

Transcription: - | “Danger?” | “Yes!” | “Oh” .. “Mm, DIE” | “Freeze spell” | “Later...” .. “Damn”



The most straightforward prompt; “inner calm” (or something close to that). And the result was a warm coral reef, with me stretched out in long gliding motions, with the outside world suppressed down to natural underwater noises. Looks like bliss. Felt like bliss sketching it. Perhaps my sketch brainstorming was becoming more calm, simple, and straightforward. (Spoiler: It wasn’t.) 



Mind control? Actually, pretty sure it was something to do with “space”. Both are acceptable. I had recently read The Three-Body Problem, and without giving much away, a key plotline is one side being able to read the minds of the other side. Perhaps my favorite sketch. Does the one on the left look like Elon Musk? 



It’s gotta be “monsters”, yes? Or one overall motley monster. I think this is where my mind had fully shifted out of its initial rigidness, well past smooth brainstorming, through loose and swervy, and finally smashing into what was I thinking? These now remind me of 1) Game of Thrones; 2) Donnie Darko; 3) the unreleased sequel to E.T.; and, 4) a needs-to-be-made Bigfoot movie.   



I have no idea what the prompt was. Looks like a pit of despair. With a fossil graveyard. And a hangout for punk cats. A mental release, of sorts? Who knows. Unsettling. 



And finally a very normal looking scene, an idyllic mountain lake. So peaceful. So starkly different from the prior doom scene. I recall feeling more just peacefulness and an ideal place I’d like to be. No hidden awfulness; just a rapid, fluid change in focus from the prior sketch; really, all the previous sketches. 

There were more prompts & sketches. But we switched from prepared prompts to called out prompts and shorter sketch times as the hour was winding down. As I recall, most of the prepared prompts had 6-8 min of sketching time. Plenty of time to mentally drift, which I think was necessary to see where the mind would go, especially with the no stopping your pen/pencil moving rule. 

This is a lot of navel-gazing on my part as I attempt to explain to myself what I was sketching. But hopefully, the open sharing can convey how (through meditation sketching, but also beyond):

A simple set of rules can successfully be used to promote brainstorming creativity.

I encourage you to try it yourself and to let me know if you reach nirvana, or perhaps find a little bit of darkness.

Published on October 20, 2020

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