Creativity and mindfulness, those two topics have been on my mind, weaving in and out of conversations over the past months. I wish to promote and cultivate them both in myself and others throughout the new year. I’d like to change my title from “art therapist” to “creative connector”.
In my work, I encounter children who are excited but cautious. They think I expect them to do something specific. They worry about making a mess in my space. Once they are assured that they are free to express themselves with any of the mediums available and create whatever comes to mind, they relax and reconnect with their playful nature.
Teenagers are also cautious for different reasons. They need the space and materials but they seek to protect their creations. They don’t always want someone else to witness their art or their pain. They share bits and pieces at a time. As I earn their trust and respect, they can go inward, dig deep and bring up material that is too scary to face alone. Their darkness turns to beauty as they reconnect with their essence through creativity.
Moms come into the space overwhelmed. They have been running, multi-tasking, caring for everyone but neglecting themselves. They tell me they are not artistic, they don’t want to waste material, they clean up after themselves. As they become familiar with the space and get to know me, they relax, breathe, create and fall into themselves once again. It’s like finding a long lost friend…another connection is made.
The boomers mostly come into group sessions: Sassy Ladies or Divorce Divas. They are unsure whether or not they belong until they hear the others speak and realize they are all going through similar transitions. The hesitant, quiet group becomes loud and festive as each woman finds herself, her place and her path. Each member recognizes the beauty and strength in other participants. As the others mirror what they see in her, she is reconnected to her own wisdom, strength and beauty.
For older adults expecting an art lesson or basic arts and crafts, the process of embracing creativity can be frightening, especially if they have always been identified as “not-artistic”. As they spend time contemplating the materials and taking risks, a youthfulness, a vigor and an excitement emerge. There are tears, laughter, lessons shared and integrated. They enjoy the freedom to create just for the joy of it. A connection is made to their youthful spirit.
All of these experiences show me how painful it is to feel alone with one’s pain. I also see how powerful it is for people to connect, create and communicate their darkest fears only to find that these are universal and quite acceptable. The nine year old boy who is embarrassed that he sometimes loses his temper and gets in trouble. The teenager who thinks she is different from anyone else because she doesn’t know what she wants to do “when she grows up”. The mom who feels guilty because she yelled at her children, again. The boomers who realize they have forgotten who they are, wondering: “Am I the only one who feels so lost?”. The elderly feeling frail and forgotten.
Participants start to feel compassion for themselves and others. That is where mindfulness comes into play. They can use the art to release thoughts, feelings, patterns or relationships which no longer suit them to make room for new experiences. They can embrace situations and emotions (positive and negative) as they come up, no longer stuck in the storyline. They can focus on the present moment and savor it. They can fully participate in their therapy, gathering all the fragments and messy bits together to create something beautiful, embracing it all as part of their learning. It is what has brought them to this point in their life.