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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Art & Healing

"Surrender" by Judy Smoot, November 2012

"Every human being has the capacity to be creative … it is the wondrous creative process, rather than the ultimate product, that is significant." ~ Expressive Artist Natalie Rogers, The Creative Connection

Since 2006 I have been drawn to the value of creative expression in bringing wholeness and spiritual healing to people, especially in times of transition when words seem to fall short of communicating the full story.  Since January 2013, I have been engaged in an intense program of study through Expressive Arts Florida Institute based in Sarasota.  Not to be confused with art therapy which has its roots in psychology and often results in analysis of the completed art expression (which can be very helpful in a therapeutic setting), expressive arts utilizes all creative art forms (visual art, clay, fabric, poetry, sculpture, gardening, weaving, movement, music, sound …) to provide opportunity for life change.  The individual who creates the "art" is the one responsible for discerning how to apply it to their life.  There is no judgment, analysis, evaluation, critique, etc.  The trained expressive artist practitioner simply provides the tools and the safe space in which the process can unfold.

Here is a simple process you might experience for yourself adapted from the book Visual Journaling by Barbara Ganim and Susan Fox.  Use a large sheet of plain paper and whatever art materials you have on hand.  I like the rich color and ease of use of oil pastels.  Crayons, markers, and color pencils will work as well.  Allow yourself about 30 minutes at the most for this process and ensure some quiet, private space where you can create without interruption.   It may help for you to have soft instrumental music playing in the background and, perhaps, a lit candle to mark this time as special.  Take some deep breaths and bring yourself to this present moment.  Begin to notice any colors, shapes or images that come to your awareness without taking so long that you "paint" a complete picture in your mind then try to capture it on the paper.  Instead, when you are ready, simply begin to put marks on the page in response to whatever emotion you are experiencing in that moment.  You are not depicting a scene so much as a felt sense.  Allow the color(s) you use to choose you in some fashion (what you are drawn to without putting too much thought into it) and allow your arm to move across the page.  Some prefer to stand while they do this.  If you do that, find a way to place your paper on the wall or on a tall table or countertop so you can move more freely as you create.  Your end result will be somewhere between an image as the one above and a page of black scribbles.  It all belongs. 

When you feel finished, allow yourself to gaze at your image for a few minutes with a journal or piece of paper with you.  Is there a title that comes to mind?  If so, write down the title.  Ask your drawing what it desires to tell you and write down its responses.  You might begin with the journal prompts "I am", "I bring", "What I have to tell you is" or anything along those lines.  Remember, this is for your own insight.  There is no expectation and no "right" answer.  Sometimes our images do not have anything to say in the moment they are created. If that is the case, return to it on another day.  The beauty of working with non-verbal creative expressions is that their message is not static - it can change from day to day.

If you engage in this process, email me at director@myawba.org and let me know how it was for you.  As we move into 2015, you will begin to see more focused expressive arts opportunities in many of our AWBA programs.   Let me know what you might be interested in.  Visit the link for Visual Journaling if you are curious to explore this on your own.  This is an excellent resource for self-exploration and is something we may consider for an AWBA program in the future if there is sufficient interest.  So,  do let me know your thoughts :)

If you are a professional or volunteer in the helping profession, I will offer a two-part workshop through the Wellstreams program regarding the use of expressive arts for those interested in incorporating expressive arts into their ministry or service with others.   "An Experience of Expressive Arts for Spiritual Directors and Those in Helping Professions will be offered on Wednesdays, March 18 and 25, 7:00-9:15 p.m. at the Martin DePorres Center in Columbus, Ohio.  If you have questions, contact me  at director@myawba.org or visit the Wellstreams Calendar to register.  Because of the nature of this workshop, space is limited so early registration is encouraged.

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