Monday, November 24, 2014

Arts and Medicine. Do it!

"Due to the rapid development of technology in the last 100 years, our attention was drawn to the physical realm, and we lost our connection with the deep and powerful mystery of our consciousness. Re-integrating arts and medicine can restore that connection.

Created in one of our programs by cancer survivor H.McD
The power of our minds and our thoughts are biologically unexplainable in the full capacity they deserve. Our thoughts -- positive or negative -- are what trigger our brains to release the neurotransmitters that affect mood and health. Neuroimmunology teaches us that extensive bi-directional communication takes place between the nervous and the immune systems in both health and disease.

In a simplified way:
If ARTS affect emotions, and
EMOTIONS affect health then
arts affect HEALTH.

We don't question the existence of hospitals, because they take care of our bodies. We don't question the existence of museums, concert halls or arts in other forms, because that's how we express our emotions and address the needs of our mind and spirit.

If humans comprise "body, mind, and spirit," then why do we question the coexistence of arts and medicine?

Why would it be so unexpected to see well-curated art on the walls of a hospital or hear beautiful live music in the waiting areas?

Arts and Medicine. Do it!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Speaking from the Heart

What we call the beginning is often the end.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
T.S.  Eliot -  Four Quartets

No matter where you are in your cancer journey, life has changed!
And we enter what Dr. Seuss refers to as "The Waiting Place".

The last book he published before his death was fittingly a serious tale of the ups and down of life. 
What was Dr.Seuss's last book?  Oh, The Places You'll Go! is one of the two cotenders.  Keep reading to find out more.
"You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…

Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting..."

What we often times call the beginning is really marking the end of something.  This “something” can be the end of a job, the end of living in a certain place, the end of a friendship, or the temporary loss of health, the loss of a body part or the loss of a life.  The end is where we begin, where we start anew.  For this to happen we must grieve our losses.  Just as everyone is an individual, everyone mourns in his or her own personal way and in his or her own time.  On the average it can take 18 - 24 months to complete the mourning process - for children much longer.  

The grieving, mourning process allows us to begin again, to open our heart to change and to new possibilities, to start again. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Don't be Afraid to Draw

Here is one of mine done at Penland.
I stumbled upon this on and it reminded me of the surrealist's game - exquisite corpse, which is a fantastic, playful way to draw collaboratively. Try this, when you are feeling down, stuck, or uncertain how you feel.  Gather a couple of pals or family members and don't worry about drawing the face, simply cut and paste an image and start drawing.

so graphic artist Mica Angela Hendricks was working in a brand new sketchbook when her four-year-old asked her if she could work on the drawings too. 
Hendricks wrote about the beginning of the project on her blog:
"Can I draw in that too, mama?” I have to admit, the girl knows good art supplies when she sees them. I muttered something about how it was my special book, how she had her own supplies and blah blah blah, but the appeal of new art supplies was too much for her to resist. In a very serious tone, she looked at me and said, “If you can’t share, we might have to take it away if you can’t share.”
Oh no she didn’t! Girlfriend was using my own mommy-words at me! Impressed, I agreed to comply. “I was going to draw a body on this lady’s face,” I said. “Well, I will do it,” she said very focused, and grabbed the pen."
Ah!  Embrace your childhood artist self and draw.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mandalas for Restoring Balance

Last month's explorations took us into the complicated realm of BalanceWe throw that word out a lot these days - "I need more balance in my life."  "Strive to maintain a balanced life."  Ruminating about the word, our class came up with associations like equilibrium  ~  stable  ~ controlled  ~  static  ~ rigidity  ~  precise... None of which made us feel very good about restoring this into our lives until Christy (my wonderful wise co-facilitator) said the word Homeostasis.  Unlike balance, homeostasis is fluid and organic.  "Imagine if we actively listened to ourselves with kindness.  Listened to whatever we perceived in body, mind, heart and soul, allowing those thoughts and feelings to just be, without judgment.  Rather than pushing away and denying or grasping and holding on, what would happen if we just fell into ourselves.  Perhaps we would begin to restore a sense of wholeness."   
When we are thrown off balance, we instinctively attempt to rectify the fall.  To take a fall usually results in some sort of change which is most often met with resistance.  The wisdom of the 13th century poet and theologian Rumi always inspires me - "Try not to resist the changes that come your way.   Instead let life live through you.  Do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?"   
In 1996, Cirque Du Soleil premiered its production Quidam.  It still is my favorite for many reasons, one of which being the song Let Me Fall.  On Thursday, August 8th, we sat and listened...

Then we used a clear wax crayon to make marks on a page in our journals that reflected what we felt while listening to the song. What were we resisting?
What were we fighting with, battling with, struggling with?  Sometimes we wrote words, sometimes we simply made marks.  We covered the page, surprised at some of the feelings that surfaced.  As a symbolic gesture to make the unseen visible, we water-colored over our marks.



Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds' wings.”   Rumi

Everyone begins to TRUST the process.

Realizing we need to cut away, let go of "things" in order to make way for something new, symbolically we began to cut out shapes from some of our color drawings.  Layering our creations one over the other,revealing a new whole.

What tools and strategies have we discovered?  Which ones are helpful in restoring "balance",in bringing our body, mind, heart and soul back into homeostasis? 
These thoughts were written into our mandalas...that now are another entry in our journals,
 our field guides to
cancer survivorship.  

 It takes more than medicine to heal.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Gratitude in Difficult times

"When you have cancer, when you’re being cut open and radiated and who knows what else, it can take a great effort to be thankful for the gift of the one life that we have been blessed with. Believe me, I know.
And sometimes, in the amnesia of sickness, we forget to be grateful. But if we let our cancers consume our spirits in addition to our bodies, then we risk forgetting who we truly are, of contracting a kind of Alzheimer’s of the soul.

Gratitude is an antidote to the dark voice of illness that whispers to us, that insists that all we have become is our disease. Living in the shadow of cancer has granted me a kind of high-definition gratitude.   I’ve found that when you’re grateful, the world turns from funereal gray to incandescent Technicolor."

Today, whatever it has brought, consider drawing a mandala of gratitude. Start with being thankful for your hands and the ability make marks. Remember, drawing is simply mark-making! Use color freely and expressively, seeing where it leads you. Gratitude is gratitude whether it's for the largest most grand thing you can muster up or for the seemingly most insignificant thing imaginable.  Create your mandala and see what words it presents to you.

Gratitude for:
My Hands.
Vibrant colors.
Nighttime stars.
Blurred Lines.
Insights, great and small.
Lessons learned.
Falling in love 3 times a day.



Monday, August 5, 2013

Partnering with Center for Colon Cancer Research of USC

Healing Icons® is partnering with Dr. Frank Berger and The Center for Colon Cancer Research of USC to provide a series of arts and healing workshops for colon cancer survivors this Fall.  There will be no cost for participants to take part in these workshops due to the generous underwriting of CCCR! 

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is a deeply jarring experience that ushers the cancer patient into a world of overwhelming psycho-social and spiritual issues.  In this summer’s CURE MAGAZINE, the article Vital Signs: recognizing & managing distress can lead to better outcomes speaks to the importance of healing the whole person, not just the body!
“Most of the time, negative emotional responses to cancer, such as vulnerability and sadness, are normal, manageable and temporary. But for more than one-third of patients, cancer instills an avalanche of fear, anger and anxiety that takes over and doesn't go away, intensifying the experience. Experts call this response "distress," and it is an increasing focus of comprehensive cancer care.
Many doctors have come to accept that treating distress will not only improve the quality of life for people living with cancer but will also enhance treatment adherence, hasten recovery times and even lower healthcare costs. In fact, so much support has coalesced around the value of recognizing distress that, starting in 2015, more than 1,500 cancer centers in the nation will need to screen patients for distress to maintain their accreditation with the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.”

We need more than medicine to heal.  The creative act ushers us past verbal expression into a silent realm full of color, shape, texture and image.  Within this world, a different kind of strength and healing is accessed where anxiety and distress loosens its hold.   Absolutely no experience is needed to participate in Healing Icons® offerings!

Who: Adult Colon Cancer Survivors   
What: A series of art & healing workshops
When: You may register for one or all three!    Absolutely no experience is required!   

Thursday September 26th from 1pm – 5pm
Mandalas for Centering Strength

Thursday October 10th from 1pm – 5pm
Mandalas for Harvesting Gratitude

Thursday October 24th from 1pm – 5pm
Mandalas for Restoring Balance

Where: The Lourie Center
1650 Park Circle   Columbia, SC   29201
Located near the intersection of Blossom and Pickens in Five Points, next to Maxcy Gregg Pool,
adjacent to the beautiful University of South Carolina campus.  

Why: We need more than medicine to heal
How: Register by email - or call Kendra at 777-1231
More information:                            

About your instructors:
Heidi Darr-Hope, founder of Healing Icons, has been a visual artist for over 4o years and has ushered
thousands of cancer patients through The Art of Survival.    

 Christy Clonts, of Wisdom Scout Coaching and Ceremonies, is a Holistic Life Coach,
Life Cycle Celebrant®,  writer and teacher.  

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mandalas for Harvesting Gratitude

How can we remain grateful in turbulent times? 

How do we keep our hearts open when we are swallowed
by fear and anger and chaos and doubt? 

During our July workshop, Mandalas for Harvesting Gratitude, we used our creative processes to dig into these difficult questions. 

Mark Nepo, one of my favorite thinkers and poets, speaks to this eloquently: 

" How can we stay awake and authentic when our wounds make us numb and hidden? How can we minimize what stands between us and our experience of life? How can we make a practice of wearing down what thickens around our mind and heart? As a cancer survivor, I have found myself like Lazarus, awake again, in the same earthly place but different. Everything has changed and nothing has changed. This wakefulness has led me to be a student of that vibrant edge where our inner life meets the world. Being a poet and philosopher, I find myself there with a particular set of tools to search with.

Art is the unexpected utterance of the soul. Much more than the manipulation of a visual language, it is a necessary art by which we live and breathe. It is the art of embodied perception; a braiding of heart and mind around experience.

Consider how a simple fish inhales water and somehow, mysteriously and miraculously, extracts the oxygen from the water. In doing this, it turns that water into the air by which it breathes. This ongoing inner transformation—the turning of water into air by extracting what is essential - is art.

For us, the heart is our gill and we must move forward into life, like simple fish. The mysterious yet vital way we turn experience into air, the way we extract what keeps us alive—this is the art of living that transcends our earthly experiences."

The Instrument of Change – Mark Nepo

Often the instruments of change
are not kind or just
and the hardest openness
of all might be
to embrace the change
while not wasting your heart
fighting the instrument.
The storm is not as important
as the path it opens.
The mistreatment in one life
never as crucial as the clearing
it makes in your heart.

This is very difficult to accept.
The hammer or cruel one
is always short-lived
compared to the jewel
in the center of the stone.