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.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Releasing Anxieties to Gather Strength

This summer as we continue to explore the art of the mandala – creating within a circle – our practices begin to intertwine.  Our first workshop addressed how to let go of, release our anxieties through the process of “intuitive” mandala drawing which we featured in our June 28th entry.  Discussing the importance of recognizing the emotional and spiritual issues that walk side by side a cancer diagnosis, our conversation turned to the importance of expanding our views of what gives us strength and what matters most in our lives.

Through a free-flow writing practice, a waterfall of strong poignant words cascaded through our group.  We took the energy from those words and began to create intentional mandalas for Centering Strength utilizing the method of Radial Symmetry. 

Radial: adj.  arranged like rays in a circular outward reaching manner

Symmetry: n. balance among structures or parts .  Symmetrical arrangement of elements, especially of radiating parts, about a central point.

Starting by planting a seed, a dot in the center of the page, we imagine that seed as an element of who we are becoming. Symbolically we surrounded our seeds with rich fertile soil, by encircling our potential for growth.  From there we draw empowering lines and shapes that radiate outward from our planted seed.

Slowly color was added with watercolor pencils.

Everyone made different color choices that reflected the various nuances of what it means to have strength. 

There is strength that is vivid and fierce, bright and brave.

There is strength that is soft spoken and quiet, fluid and full of movement.

Sometimes we need to follow our own direction and let the creation lead us where it may.  This mandala intertwines both techniques.

The creator of this mandala took an organic approach to drawing her mandala.  After completing it, she made several unexpected associations.  The golden colored center shape seemed lion-like, a fierce protector while the figure it surrounded seemed embryonic, a newborn dancing outward from the sea. 

She titled her mandala of Centering Strength - Becoming Whole Again.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Art of Survival: Insights into Healing 2013 classes

The Art of Survival:
Insights into Healing
We Need More than Medicine to Heal
Journey through Cancer with Healing Icons
" I recommend Healing Icons to other cancer survivors as it has helped me reflect on my cancer journey...Having examined my feelings and fears, my hopes and dreams, I now stand strong in who I have become."    IS 2012
Sponsored by the generous support of the

You will be guided through creative methods, allowing you to reflect and shape your personal healing icon – a visual reminder of your own restorative process, wisdom and strength.
Stretch into your mind and body, heart and soul.
Join us for our arts and healing workshops.
Absolutely no experience is necessary
To register email us or call Libby at 803-791-2289 or
Jennifer at 803-791-2617
Summer Workshops
Exuberant summer - the jeweled balm for the battered spirit.  Reclaim the joyousness of summer by exploring the meditative art of drawing circles, sacred circles, sometimes referred to as mandalas.  We will introduce you to a variety of materials for creating your personal mandala.
You may register for one or both!
Tuesday July 16 from 1pm – 5pm
Mixed Media Mandalas for Harvesting Gratitude

Thursday August 8th from 1pm – 5pm
Mixed Media Mandalas for Restoring Balance
Autumn Workshop
Glorious autumn is full of ripe color and cool mornings, a time to begin to reconnect with our still small voice within.  We will create a 3 dimensional mixed media heart as a symbolic reminder of the time and attention it takes to sustain an open heart.

Tuesdays - September 10, 17, 24, October 1,8,15,22 from 5pm - 7pm
Speaking From the Heart:  Creating a 3-dimensional mixed media “Healing Heart”

Winter Workshops

Quiet Winter - a time of hibernation, reflection and going within - a time to digest what has happened during the year.  To process our journey, we will draw from within, exploring the art of bookmaking.

You may register for one or all three!

Drawing From Within:
Wednesday - November 6th From 1pm - 5pm
Creating a Visual Journal for Remembering

Tuesday - November 19th from 1pm - 5pm
Creating a visual journal for Letting Go

Thursday - December 5th from 1PM - 5PM
Creating a visual Journal for Discovery

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.   For more information - Healing Icons

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


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. 


Monday, March 11, 2013

Your Springtime Creative Muse

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
Miriam Beard

This weekend I wandered throughout my neighborhood, slowing way, way down
 to see my familiar through a different lens ~
traveling in my own backyard.   
 As Spring begins to unfold, there is such magnificence right under our noses. 
Watch out for it!

Nature can take us to exotic places.
Pay attention to the light and the shadows and see where they lead you.  

Use the camera in your phone as a sketchbook.
Record, Ponder and Journal about your snapshots.

Look at your images as nudges from your Springtime Creative Muse.
Where is she taking you?

Consider sharing your snapshot reflections with us.