Friday, June 28, 2013

Mandalas for Centering Strength

We gathered at Lexington Medical Center to explore the idea of art making as a form of healing.  A few were outside of cancer treatment for many years but still possessed a nagging fear of a recurrence.  Others had just finished treatment.  Another was heading to Duke on Friday for exploratory surgery as her counts were up but the location of her cancer mastitis unknown.  One had fought with cancer 5 times and spoke of not being a survivor but a cancer conqueror!  Awe inspiring, courageously resilient – every single one of them!

One of the most difficult “issues” that goes hand in hand with a cancer diagnosis is the loss of control.  Suddenly without warning life dramatically changes and with that comes mounting fears and deep anxiety.

At times this feeling is mirrored in our art and healing practices as participants face a blank page waiting to be marked upon.  Having no idea what our creations are going to look like is a lesson in trusting the process, seeing where the art-making leads us.

This summer we are exploring the art of the mandala – creating within a circle.  Our first workshop addressed how to let go of our anxieties through the process of “intuitive” mandala drawing and how to create an intentional mandala for Centering Strength. 

Using a black piece of paper which represents the void, the mystery, the unknown, we began by using a white pencil, a light wand shedding illumination into our drawings.  Symbolically we planted a seed in the center of the circle drawn on the black paper. 

Quietly, tentatively the process unfolded as we began to trust our hands as we moved our pencils up and down, sideways and upside down…. almost like doodling.  Paying attention to the shapes created by the pencil and the back shapes in-between, slowly symbols and feelings began to surface.  These associations were written down and linked together with other nouns, adjectives, verbs to form a “story”, a message from the mandala.

At the end of the day, everyone left with a lighter heart, a set of skills to practice until our next gathering and a new appreciation of the emotional and spiritual release the arts have to offer us!

 Thank you to Lexington Medical Foundation for sponsoring these series of classes.

 Allowing by Danna Faulds
There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado.  Dam a
stream, and it will create a new
channel.  Resist and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow and grace will carry
you to higher ground.  The only
safety lies in letting it all in -
the wild with the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the door of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.

In our next class,
Mandalas for Harvesting Gratitude,  we will learn another technique for creating mandalas.
Tuesday July 16th
from 1 - 5 at Lexington.
 To register for this free offering
Call Libby Daniels 791-2289 or
Jennifer Peagler 791-2617
Participants said:
"I learned that you can create art for yourself without concern about the appeal of it to others!"
"I thought I was not artistic or creative but now the creative healing  arts will be part of my new life."
" I was able to delve deeper into my emotions."
" Amazed that art is more than visual, that it can be therapeutic."


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Opening my Gmail this morning, I landed on a message from my daughter who sent me a link to this - How Not to Be Alone by Jonathan Safran Foer  - saying it reminded her of me.  Deeply touched by this gesture, I was reminded of all the cancer survivors I have worked with. It reminded me of our small art & healing communities where we begin to unravel our complicated webs of life.  To hold an intimate conversation about what matters is "messy and painful and difficult" and joyously rewarding.  To lend an attentive ear and a welcoming heart, all within an art studio, is the stuff a good life is made of.
Addressing the emotional work it takes to be present and how we lazily impart more information than speak of our humanness, Mr. Foer reminds us
"We live in a world made up more of story than stuff. We are creatures of memory more than reminders, of love more than likes. Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be messy, and painful, and almost impossibly difficult." This is where we begin to " wrestle with the questions of purpose and wrestle with our answers."
When we receive a cancer diagnosis, the emotions we experience are overwhelming -
so overwhelming it is difficult to even form the words to describe the feelings.  We can begin to feel very alone, locked up inside.  It takes time to reach into our inner lives and unlock all of  the implications of a cancer diagnosis.  An attentive ear is helpful as is a blank journal ready to receive our wild ramblings.  What is important is to be observant of ourselves and express the rumble within.  Whether through unedited journaling, free wheeled painting, or fierce cutting collage,  beginning to unabashedly express our inner lives is vital to our healing process and paramount towards living an authentic life.