“I found that I could say things with color and shapes that I had no words for.”–Georgia O’Keefe
Have you ever felt that the world pressures you to be action-oriented if you are going to succeed?
I don’t know about you, but I lose track of myself by all the doing I can do, and before I know it, I’m carrying a build up of emotional stress in my body, mind and spirit. It is sometimes tricky to tease apart what I am feeling when I am tired, overworked, under-rested and just plain stressed. This is when spending time with Dr. Quiet is the best, most practical, restorative gift I can give to myself.
Our happiness values tell us how much sleep, self time, exercise recovery time, and spiritual development time (introspection) we need. As the anabolic physician, we know that when we spend time with Dr. Quiet to reflect, we create the optimal conditions to connect with one’s self and discover what our internalized state is telling us.
Many of us have an active work-in practice, and some of us also practice a sitting meditation. However, we may find that when we are sitting still, our thoughts speed up and we are impossibly distracted and frustrated by the body-mind’s wind-up. With this kind of amplified nervous energy surging, it’s a good idea to find another tool from our coaching toolbox to help us work with all that restlessness and resolve the buildup of stressful feelings.
Paul Chek and I regularly use expressive art therapy as a means of “working-in” with our clients, both for teaching purposes and for healing. Those of you who are familiar with Paul’s PPS Mastery program, particularly Lesson 1: Determining your Legacy, have been introduced to the value of healing through mandala art.
We know that life and art cannot be disassociated from human experience and thus, our feelings. Using expressive art – a non-verbal form of communication – is one of Dr. Quiet’s creative interventions that will help you feel more attuned to your inner self. It’s also one of the most fun and effective ways we can spend with Dr. Quiet. Expressive arts is good medicine.
When most people think of expressive art they think, “That’s not me!” “Art is what other people do, not me!”
But what if we reframe some of those ideas and beliefs to redefine expressive art as an “active rest” practice to help you manage your internal state? It is my experience that everyone is capable of tapping into his or her art spirit, and if we are honest, we recognize our lives are filled with creative moments.
As long as you are open to new possibilities and willing to allow your inner feelings to be expressed, ultimately, through patience and practice, you’ll arrive to embrace greater trust in yourself and instinctively turn to the practice when you are confronted with discomforting feelings of dis-ease.
I am a deeply feeling woman and when I was a young girl, I was very shy and couldn’t find the words to express what I was feeling inside to resolve the stress from my family. Early on though, I discovered that shapes, colors, forms, and symbols fascinated me and when I put these elements together I felt better. I wasn’t sure how that was at that young age, but it inspired artistic expression from the earliest age.
Expressive arts became the medium through which I could easily explore and potentially transform my emotional, social, spiritual, and relational issues. Through this medium, I began a lifelong practice to understand the intricate relationship between the many types of health challenges and the correlation of trapped emotions, trauma, stress, attitudes and beliefs in the body.
When I was at University, I was keenly interested in expressive arts therapy because of its powerful ability to help individuals to find their own expressions. This technique has been an excellent way for me to help my clients create a dialogue between their inner and outer realities and into the multi-layered levels of the self.
By shining the light of awareness into the feeling body and bringing those feelings to the surface through color, shape, form or symbol, we reduce the stress from our inner emotional pain and transform it into something that is much more positive and constructive.
Using expressive art is process oriented and has the capacity to speed up internal processing and allow people to work at their own pace and skill level. As many of you know, when we move a painful or stressful emotion from inside the body to the outside, it liberates energy for repairing the body-mind at its deepest level. When we open up and hear what our emotions have to say, we actively engage in the healing process.
When is a good time to do expressive art? Any time!
I recommend a daily or at the very least a weekly practice to connect into the stressful feelings you are probably holding. The evening is a great time to release the day’s stress, challenges or celebrate your successes. You can even use art to discharge nervous stress before a meeting or when you need to think outside the box, or even first thing in the morning to project what you want to experience.
The following suggestions will get you started:
- Keep an art journal with tear-out pages so that, if you want, you can put up your expressions in your environment and be reminded of what is transforming.
- Use a medium that allows for quick expression such as pastels, crayons or colored pencils.
- Set your intention – on the emotional plane this is often enough to get things started.
- Quietly sit and direct your awareness inward to whatever you are feeling. Take slow, deep, centering breaths as you connect to your rhythm and cycle of breathing.
- Ask yourself: What is my mood? Is my mood consistent with my thoughts? Sometimes anger at self or life circumstances can be felt as resignation and sadness. What are the sensations I am experiencing? Where do I feel them? If they could talk what would they say? What are the shapes, colors, and symbols associated with my feelings?
- Trust whatever your body is telling you. Listen, witness, and don’t judge what is rising up emotionally.
- Draw your feelings of anger, sadness, excitement, love, happiness, fear, self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, addictions, and other inhibiting forces using color, shape and form.
- You may draw with your eyes opened or closed or use your non-dominant hand. This is an excellent practice when too much is going on and we need to SLOW down.
- Never force your expression. It’s an invitation to also play while enhancing your ability to make meaning, to see options and to grow in a direction consistent with the authentic self.
- Give gratitude and appreciation to yourself for all that is rising up, all that you know and all that you are.
Through expressive art, we are provided with a quiet activity to reflect and communicate our internal feelings, and obtain profound insights and realizations through the revelation of inner symbolic messages. As in all of Dr. Quiet’s techniques, this approach is a “brain-wise” intervention that stimulates whole-brain responses to help people of all ages foster integrative awareness, encouraging emotional intelligence, and enhanced relationships.
I’d love to hear about your process and see some of your expressive art.