Monthly Archives: April 2014

Does Meditation Inhibit Creativity?

A student sent me an interesting article from the New York Times recently about the benefits—and costs—of meditation. The article discussed several meditation studies.  In the first, Amishi Jha, the director of the University of Miami’s Contemplative Neuroscience, Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative, taught United States Marines twelve-minute meditation practices that they performed daily.

Marines who meditated twelve minutes or more each day improved working memory and increased their ability to pay attention. Those same skills degraded in Marines that didn’t meditate or meditated less than twelve minutes each day.

A different study (by Michael Posner of the University of Oregon and Yi-Yuan Tang of Texas Tech University) showed that meditation enhances integrity and efficiency in the part of the brain that controls problem solving and rational decision making.

Still other studies have demonstrated that meditation can help improve GRE test scores. Simply put, meditation helps people learn and stay focused, in spite of distraction.

New research, however, indicates there may be a cost to all of that focused attention: creativity.

Jonathan Schooler, who runs a lab investigating mindfulness and creativity at the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that the most insightful ideas of both physicists and writers came when they were engaged in mindless activities—simple activities that allowed them to “space out.”

This creates an interesting conundrum for me as a yoga teacher/writer. Should I give up my mindfulness practices in order to deepen my craft?  Will my novels be more vibrant and engaging if I don’t try to control the random activities of my mind?

I suspect that the key, as in most of life, lies in balance.  For someone like me—who has suffered from chronic depression and anxiety most of her life—meditation is a powerful, life-changing tool. It trains my monkey mind to focus less on the bad things that might happen in the future, and more on whatever actually is happening in the moment. Meditation helps me stay present and truly take in the delicious world around me—a world that often ends up on the page.

My funniest lines pop into my head when I’m walking my dog—in that sweet, unstructured, daydreamy time that Tasha and I spend together in nature. Time I can only appreciate because of my meditation practices.

Without yoga and meditation, my mind would fill those walks with visions of tragedy and imagined despair. With it, I see more clearly.  Meditation has given me the ability to focus when I need to focus and let my mind wander to the vivid worlds of my characters when I don’t.

So to me, there’s no tradeoff between focus and creativity. Meditation gives me the ability to both.

What do you think?

Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and other retailers!

Simple, Sweet and Profound: A Beautiful Little Book on Meditation

As a yoga studio owner, I often receive unsolicited promotional material in the mail.  Everything from food samples, to articles of clothing, to CDs, to yoga props. Most of it I promptly give away.  Every now and then a publisher sends me a book for review.

Unfortunately, the books I receive don’t usually align with the Viniyoga methodology or the yoga teachings I’ve been given. Sometimes they’re yoga related, but I’m just plain not interested in their premise.  So normally I take a quick look at them, then give them to someone else or quickly file them in our lending library, hoping one of my students will appreciate them.

A pretty, tiny book arrived not long ago.  I was in a hurry, so I almost didn’t even look at it. I’m still not sure why I did.  But as I was about to walk it to the community bookshelf, I opened it. I’m glad I did.


Simple Meditation: A Quick and Easy Guide for Learning to Meditate is a sweet little book, only fifty-eight pages long.  The left side of each is a gorgeous full-color photograph.  On the right, A few words, no more than a hundred or so per page, formatted in a way that reminds me of poetry. The book’s presentation is beautiful, although some of the printing on my copy is blurred, and at times the center-justified formatting bothers me.

What really sold me on this book was how aligned it is with my own ideas about meditation.  It was almost like I wrote it myself.

The first thirty-five pages outline general principles on the hows, whats, and wheres of meditation.  The last twenty outline ten simple meditations any beginner can try.  The techniques cover the spectrum of senses: sound, sight, sensation—smell and taste would be nice additions, but that’s a small quibble—and seven of the ten techniques are ones I’ve taught in my own meditation classes.  My new personal favorite is a sweet little meditation on joyfulness. I just might have to steal for my next New Year’s Day yoga class.

The book is available for purchase through  I’d say look for it on the studio’s bookshelf, but this one is coming home with me.


Tracy Weber

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere! 

Ode to a Sunflower

Today I did what I seem to do best lately.  I procrastinated on writing my next novel by taking a silly Internet quiz titled “What Flower Are You?” Evidently, I am a sunflower. Here’s how the grand, all-knowing Internet describes me:


“You are the eternal optimist, always looking up. Nothing can shake your sweet, happy spirit. Friends enjoy your company because they find your joy contagious.”

Although I’m sure many people would argue with the results, the truth is, I do try to look at the positive in life. And the test reminded me of a blog article I meant to write about a recent dog walk with my husband.

My husband and I walked our dog Tasha to Green Lake about a week ago. Marc and I ambled along the same sidewalk. We were surrounded by the same items. Yet our experiences were significantly different. I took in brightly colored tulips, sweetly scented flowers, the warmth of the sun, and the joy in Tasha’s expression as she explored the fascinating new spring scents. In the same fifteen minutes, my husband noticed a used condom, a discarded, dangerous looking knife, and several piles of un-picked-up dog waste.

Honestly, these differences between Marc and I aren’t all that uncommon. I tend to notice the lighter side of life; he notices the darker. Who is right? The sutras would say neither of us; I say both. Seeing the bright side allows me to have more short-term pleasures in life. Seeing the dark allows Marc to avoid its inevitable sorrow. After all, I was the one who stepped solidly in the middle of the dog waste.

The goal in yoga is to see clearly. To be able to enjoy, without attachment, all of the bright, beautiful, luxurious parts of life while also being conscious of its perils. Together, Marc and I make a fabulous team. Separately, we are both blinded. Through the practice of yoga, I hope to maintain my sunny outlook, while improving my ability to see clearly.

A worthy goal for all of us.

Have a wonderful week and enjoy your life, whatever your flower may be.  If you want to find out, here’s the URL to the quiz that I took.

Let me know what flower you are in a comment.

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out my author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available for now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and other retailers!

Will the Real Yoga Teacher Please Stand Up?

As a novelist, I’ve been blessed to meet many generous writers who have mentored me on the bumpy path to publication. Pretty much every seasoned writer I’ve met so far has given me one sage piece of advice: never read reviews.

I have to admit, I read them anyway.

Maybe it’s curiosity; maybe it’s excitement; maybe it’s simply my need to look for that ever-elusive stamp of approval, but I can’t seem to stop myself. I dig and I search and I devour every new review I can find. Most of the time, they make me smile. Occasionally, I learn something from a reader’s comments that will make me a better writer. Sometimes, however, a review leaves me shaking my head.

A few weeks ago, I came across one such review. I don’t even remember now if the reader liked my book. Something tells me it wasn’t her favorite. But one criticism stuck in my memory. She said that my protagonist wasn’t a realistic yoga teacher. If Kate were a real yoga teacher, the reader asserted, she’d be much thinner and more flexible.

My protagonist is 5’3” tall and weighs 130 pounds, which is normal by most standards. Like many women, Kate has body image issues and hates her “chunky” thighs. All in all, she’s not a heck of a lot different than me, and she can do significantly more challenging yoga poses than I can. I’ve made my living teaching yoga for the past fourteen years.

Yoga teachers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are lithe and can do amazing things with their bodies. Some are overweight. Some suffer from chronic illnesses and perpetually tight hamstrings. Some even start their yoga teaching career after retirement. The best yoga teachers know how to teach the students in front of them, in spite of their own personal limitations—or lack thereof. In fact, many of the best yoga teachers have imperfect bodies. If you can’t do a pose, learning how to observe your students and describe that pose becomes even more important.

Why do I care about this enough to write a blog article about it? The comment in the review highlights the very misperception of yoga that I’m trying to destroy: that yoga is only for the fit, the flexible, and the young. I have certified over 250 teachers in the past ten years, and I have met privately to discuss Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training with at least three times that many. My heart always breaks a little when an otherwise wonderful candidate decides not to pursue teaching yoga because they can’t do all of the poses, they don’t have a size-four body, or they think they are too old. The world loses a lot of great yoga teachers that way.

Is the protagonist in my book likely to grace the cover of Yoga Journal? Probably not. But perhaps it’s time we let go of the yoga stereotypes. If we yoga teachers are more diverse, our students will be as well.

What do you think?


Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and bookstores everywhere!