Last week, I was at the Omega Institute for “Family Week”, the annual family camp that the retreat center has held for some 30 years.

Kicking and screaming somewhat stupidly for an innovation coach, I ended up in a writing workshop entitled, “Relax and Write”. Actor, author and writing coach Maia Danzinger has developed a process for removing the blocks to writing that begins with a guided meditation with themes and memes of support, grounding, connection and expansion. Following the 20 or so minutes of her rising, falling, urging, coaxing voice, you put pen to paper and write for 25 – 40 minutes, capturing whatever images, sentences, words and thoughts came through during or immediately following your meditation time. [ in exchange for your email address, you can download her meditation here. ] Some students might begin with literally “blah, blah, blah”, before The Muse delivers more interesting material; but almost all of the 40-some participants shared something with the class – a story, a dialogue, a poem, a journal entry – that was worth our collective attention.

Did my kicking and screaming yield a book idea? Yes. More interesting to me, however, is that I learned a new practice for surfacing ideas. I’ve always thought of meditation as a calming piece of self-care critical to getting through the day, not necessarily an innovation or ideation practice EVENTHOUGH I’ve experienced great ideas during the process of trying to slow the processes of the mind.

One unexpected result of the exercise is how much I began to remember about the character and the story that underpins my book idea. Each meditation brought forward more images, situations, places and related information that I had completely and utterly forgotten. Neuroscientist and leadership coach David Rock asserts in a blog post the importance of being quiet to access insights. Brain research shows that the conscious mind can hold a lot less information in it than previously thought. How do you summon up all that information that might be swirling in the dregs of your gray matter cocktail? Or: for Harry Potter fans, what’s your pensieve?

Quietude: turn off, tune out, tee up!