Monday, April 14, 2014

ZENventures: Unwind Your Imagination

By Darlene Kent
Graduate Student
International Center for Studies in Creativity

Want to go on a Zenventure? Have I captured your attention?  Are you curious? Join me as I share my Master’s project with you.

What are Zenventures?

Zenventures are guided imageries, meditations that are designed to be mini adventures.

Adventures of peace, adventures of the heart, and adventures of the mind.  Zenventures are about taking a journey, about taking a moment to pause, to unplug and just be.  Be you, be relaxed, and be in the now.  Everybody needs a coffee break, even your brain.  Zenventures is all about the art of the pause.

Zenventures take you to a place you may never have been before, it allows you to try out new options.  They help you get comfortable with new skills and new ideas.  Zenventures are about opening your creativity and your mind to possibilities.  Zenventures give you a way to release and connect to your imagination, and to experience some peace.

Relax and discover your creative potential to embrace imagination, insight and your artistic self - whatever your art may be.

Discover SIM:  Story, Incubation, Music

We live in a busy world, a world that seems to have forgotten how to breathe, how to pause, and how to unplug from an everyday, all day, internet access.  Discover SIM:  unplug by plugging in. You may be wondering what is SIM?  And why should I care?  SIM is an acronym that taps into three powers to help you discover imagination, creativity and insight:
    Power of Story
    Power of Incubation
    Power of Music

Humans have an affinity for story, we respond to them, remember them, and share them.  Zenventures tap into your desire for stories and uses it as a vehicle to help you connect to your inner potential.

I believe in our busy and increasingly interconnected world we are forgetting how to incubate. Guided meditations help people find time to pause, and give ourselves permission and time to let the answer find us. Zenventures help you tap into this deep well of potential, one that is often overlooked.

Humans experience music on a different level, beyond words, beyond logic, beyond the everyday.  Hear some music and some part of your body wants to move with it.  In Zenventures we use music to move the mind, the heart and the soul.

The book, Wired for Story, discussed how story can help rewire a person’s brain, to help us to see the possibilities of the future, and to teach us the way of the world (Cron, 2012).  Human beings connect to story in a strong way, and I used the power of story to take the person on a journey.  One very clear way I did that was by using a theme in the meditations, and I connected that to something that happens in music lyrics - a chorus.  Theme is the universal message that you want to share, it tells people the point of the story, and conveys information about the human experience (Cron, 2012), in this case the creative aspect of being human.

The best way to make people believe in something is with repetition, and another way is to use simple language (Kahneman, 2011).  I employed both of these strategies while writing and creating the guided meditations.  So the chorus, repeated a few times during the meditation; is the key attitude, skill or trait about creativity I want the person to take on.  The power of SIM (Story, Incubation, Music) lies with the repeated chorus, and the breeding of familiarity that comes with listening to it, especially with doing the same meditation over and over again.  The chorus is my secret weapon, it is how I plant the seeds of creativity that will hopefully blossom into helping a person become more creative.


Research has clearly proven that there is a mind body connection and that mediation has several benefits:  quicker recovery from stress, increased alpha rhythms, enhanced synchronization, muscle relaxation, less emotional reactivity, increased empathy, more happiness,  increased creativity, and heightened perceptual clarity and sensitivity (Bodian, 2006). 

When I was doing the initial research for the project, I checked and, and I found that most guided meditations refer to creativity in general.  Current guided meditation do not focus on the skills, attitudes and traits associated with creativity. 

A journal article written by Sawyer (2011) on the neuroscience of creativity suggested that creative people experience higher levels of alpha wave activity, and that creative people use both hemispheres of the brain.  You can connect that information to the benefits of meditation [increased alpha rhythms and increased brain synchronization, (Bodian, 2006)] to see how meditating increases creativity in general.

What appears to be lacking in the current guided meditation landscape are the skills, traits and attitudes that support creativity.  I decided to use meditation, guided imagery and visualization as a way to help people practice and master the skills, traits and attitudes associated with creativity. 

The best journal article I read on creativity and meditation was called, The Neuropsychological Connection Between Creativity and Meditation (Horan, 2009). The section labeled, Insight, provided a good overview on creativity and meditation.  What research indicated is that meditation helps with incubation and insight through the processes of transcendence and integration. 

Transcendence bypasses limits in information, in essence you could say it creates a whole that is greater than the sum of the knowledge.  And integration is about transforming information, you can think of it as an enlightened state.  Transcendence is about diverging, and integration is about converging.  After reading this article I came to the conclusion that transcendence and integration are part of the yin/yang of creativity.

Be Rock Star Zen

It is too early to tell if the guided meditations can increase the prevalence of the specific traits, skills and attitudes associated with creativity.  Even if they do not, meditation will still help enhance creativity in general. 

So, let’s jump in and go on a Zenventure.  Enjoy the streaming audio below and discover a peace and creativity adventure today!

For more Zenventures please visit  or

To read the entire Master’s Project paper go to Digital Commons at

For more about me, Darlene Kent, reach out and connect at


Bodian, S. (2006). Meditation for dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Cron, L. (2012). Wired for story:  The writer’s guide to using brain science to hook readers from the very first sentence. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

Horan, R. (2009). The neuropsychological connection between creativity and meditation. Creativity Research Journal, 21(2-3), 199–222. doi:10.1080/10400410902858691

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking fast and slow. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Sawyer, K. (2011). The Cognitive Neuroscience of Creativity: A Critical Review. Creativity Research Journal, 23(2), 137–154. doi:10.1080/10400419.2011.571191

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

April 15th-April 21st is World Creativity and Innovation Week (WCIW)!!! What might be all the ways to celebrate creativity with your children this month?

By Dr. Cyndi Burnett
Associate Professor

WCIW is a global celebration of our natural ability to create. It is about “celebrating our ability to get new ideas, use imagination, and make new decisions to make the world a better place, and to make your place in the world better too.” The wonderful thing about WCIW is that you can celebrate your creativity anywhere.

To jumpstart your creativity, I wanted to provide you with twenty-one things you can do this month to celebrate creativity with the children in your life. Many of these ideas are taken from a book I am currently co-developing with Michaelene Dawson. The book is called, “My Sandwich is a Spaceship: Creative Thinking for Parents and Kids.”

1.              Teach your children your favorite childhood game. If it is a board game, go online and see if you can find it, and treat your family!
2.              Create a curiosity tree or corner in your house where you can post all of you and your children’s questions (post-its work great!). Talk about the questions over meals.
3.              Take a day to mindfully play with your children. Turn off TVs, cell phones, and computers, pack a picnic and go to a small park. Get lost in the park, daydream, and spend time being totally present. Notice new things around you in the park.
4.              Eat dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. Completing tasks out of sequence has demonstrated higher levels of creative thinking. Let your children pick the meals.
5.              Get a big professional canvas (Michael’s or Joanne Fabrics has many sizes), put on your painting clothes (make sure you have a spare set of clothes and washcloths on hand), pick up some finger paint, and together using all body parts, paint a “masterpiece”. Once complete and cleaned up, talk to your child about how they felt, what colors they used, and what your picture looks like. Most important, find some place in your house to showcase your work of art.
6.              Engage in fantasy games with your child. My son loves to make up games. His current favorites are called Carzoom, Dropsidy Whapsidy, and Train Around. Don’t be afraid to engage with the imagination and create your own games!
7.              Try a completely new meal together as a family.
8.              Together, come up with as many ideas for a Saturday morning as you possibly can think of while delaying your judgment (so try not to put down any of the ideas). Then, plan and execute a Saturday morning adventure (breakfast at the local diner, swinging in the local park, followed by launching their favorite stuffed animal into outer space – or as far as they can get it…).
9.              Pick a room in your house to rearrange; sit in different chairs, and notice how the view has changed.
10.           Plant a small tree (it is also earth day this month) in your backyard and take a picture of it. Then, make a family pact to take photos each season.
11.           Come up with different ends to your favorite bedtime story. (In the great green room, there was a telephone and blue baboon and a picture of grandma jumping over the moon…).
12.           Pick up some kabob sticks at your local store, and put your children’s favorite foods on the stick. Then, add in some new foods and see if they will try it.
13.           When faced with a parenting problem, try to look at it in another way. For example, when my son wouldn’t eat cheese, I gave him “sprinkle cheese” and he was eating it by the handfuls. What is something else you can try?
14.           Find a color wheel on the internet. Go grocery shopping, and try to find food from the color wheel.
15.           Create a song from one of your favorite tunes. For example, imagine singing “cookie cookie, chocolate milk” as the title to the song to “Twinkle Twinkle little star”.
16.           Think about your favorite soundtrack as a child. Mine was Disco Mickey Mouse. Download it from iTunes and dance with your children.
17.           Together, think about all the things that can be created with water. Then, try to do something new with water (maybe create a river in the bathtub where the toy dinosaurs can live).
18.           Go through your closet and get rid of things you haven’t worn in the last year. Then, use those clothes as dress up clothes. Remember your old skirt could be your child’s superhero cape.
19.           Have a “silly” talent show, where each member of your family showcases a silly talent (holding a spoon on your nose, singing the abcs in a gibberish language).
20.           Before you throw anything in the garbage, think of another use for it with your children. Perhaps the baby food jars could act as spice holders or your cereal box could be the head of a robot you build!
21.           Think about something you used to love to do as a child and try it with your children. One of my favorite memories as a child was sitting in the Burger King parking lot with my mom, eating french fries in the car and talking about anything. Being the youngest of five, I was so grateful to have time alone to talk to her. Think about what you might do this week (and beyond!) to build creative memories with your children! And don't forget to take photos!

If you have any more ideas you would like to share, please post them in the comments section below.

Check out the following website for more creative ideas to try at home, in education, or at work! And don't forget to share what you did with the world!

***Photo courtesy of Rebecca Murak at Elmwood Franklin School

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"Creative Conspiracy" in our Everyday Lives

A book review by: Diane Bessel, PhD, LMSW, CNM
Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Program Director (Sociology and Social Work)
Daemen College

Creative Conspiracy

Think about the various items included on your work-related to-do list. Review each item and consider which you can perform completely independently and which items require assistance from at least one other individual. Chances are the most important tasks on your to-do list require you to work with others, and the success of those endeavors depends on your ability to collaborate effectively.

The nature of business collaboration – and creative collaboration, in particular – is at the heart of this thoroughly researched yet highly accessible work of non-fiction: Creative Conspiracy. According to management expert and author Leigh Thompson, collaboration is “the art and science of combining people’s talents, skills, and knowledge in order to achieve a common goal” (p. 1). While an essential part of contemporary work life, Thompson argues that creative collaboration remains one of the most challenging tasks undertaken by professionals due, in part, to critical misunderstandings of creative problem solving processes and research.

To underscore this point, Thompson identifies a series of commonly held beliefs about creativity and links to research findings that fly in the face of conventional wisdom. She debunks several “myths” by sharing data that demonstrates that teams are typically less creative than individuals when left to their own devices; that providing specific “rules” and engaging in a stimulating environments actually lead to increases in a group’s inventiveness; and that changing a team’s membership and composition can enhance a team’s innovation. She notes that most business leaders are unable to articulate the four basic rules of brainstorming – a staple of the creative problem solving process.

Nevertheless, Thompson also suggests that when collaboration is conscious, planned, and focused on generating new or novel ideas, it can develop into a "creative conspiracy." Teams that “conspire” organize themselves, motivate their members, and combine their talents to commit creative and innovative acts. They are considered the hallmark of highly successful organizations.

In the book, Thompson reveals what she considers to be some of the major barriers to creative conspiracies including the tendency for group members to change their behavior to go along with the team (conformity); free riding or social loafing among group members; the development of a team superiority complex; the tyranny of the average (also known as regression to the mean); the tendency among group members to multi-task; and the purposeful dumbing down of participants to avoid attracting unwanted attention.

Thompson also discusses key strategies that enable teams to reach their full creative potential and maximize results. These “best practices” center on opportunities to develop a nimble and diverse team; provide appropriate leadership and motivation to members; address and ultimately transform team conflict; and set the stage for building a creative conspiracy through the development of an associated action plan.

Likewise, Thompson offers tips to address specific concerns. Her advice is practical and drawn from real-life experiences making it useful to myriad groups from start-ups to seasoned professionals. Drawing on research conducted by Paulis, Thompson argues that individuals should engage in idea-generating activities on their own before participating in brainstorming as a group. She insists that teams should never be set up just for the sake of having a team, but should only be used if one needs to draw upon a range of skills and views. She states that teams should be kept small and should be as diverse as possible.
Thompson also argues that new members should constantly be brought into the group and old ones removed, as this keeps members on their toes and working at a high level. Citing research that shows that quiet and relaxed areas are not always best when it comes to idea generation, Thompson suggests that sessions should be held in places that get the mind buzzing or run the risk of allowing members to get too comfortable.
While the book could benefit from some additional examples of creative conspiracies and a discussion of their real life impact, it is, at its core, about increasing creative collaborations and has the potential to become a powerful resource for those in a position to implement these best practices. The book draws on strong empirical evidence to support the appropriate use of creative problem solving techniques including brainstorming, brain writing, and rules-based facilitation among others. This information is particularly helpful to individuals who are not trained in creative problem solving as well as those in need of a skills refresh. Many constituencies can be aided by this book including business executives, team leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, researchers, and students of creativity, in general.


Thompson, L. (2013). Creative conspiracy: The new rules of breakthrough collaboration. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

About Diane Bessel

Diane R. Bessel, PhD, LMSW, CNM is a student in the Creativity and Change Leadership Certificate Program. She recently joined the faculty at Daemen College as Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Program Director of the Sociology and Social Work Department. Prior to joining Daemen College, she served as the Director of Research, Investments, and Advocacy at the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County where she was responsible for regularly assessing community trends for the purposes of coordinated planning and decision-making. Bessel regularly uses the skills she has acquired through the ICSC program in her consulting work with non-profit organizations, government groups, collaborative initiatives, and foundations.