Attention is an act of connection:  Discovering the Artist’s Way.

Most recently, I stopped in a bookstore, and like any good therapist, I did most of my perusing in the self-help section.  I found a book entitled “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.  A woman perusing the same section gave the book a ringing endorsement.  Even more, a few days prior, my dear friend had talked about this book.  It seemed like a synchronous moment. I purchased the book and took it home.  

Julia Cameron, a poet, playwright, fiction writer, and essayist, provides guidance to the reader to retrieve the creator within. I had beaten myself up over the past several years for not writing enough, for not creating enough.  This was it!  I had found my guide to help me fulfill my intention to create more.  

Cameron suggests writing “morning pages” to retrieve the creative self.   In this practice, she invites the reader to sit down first thing in the morning and write long-hand, using a stream of consciousness style, for three pages. This has become my practice for the last several weeks.  The act of writing down my thoughts, worries, struggles, feelings of anger, sadness, joy, and fear first thing in the morning seems to have a lasting, calming effect on the rest of my day.  The act of allowing the paper to hold all of that somehow cleared the way for my creative self to emerge.  Ideas have begun to flow easier, and the practice itself is a form of energetic discharge.  

As I write about the practice of morning pages, it reminds me of the practice of mindfulness.  Cameron (1992) writes “attention is an act of connection” (p. 53). The morning pages is the process of paying attention to one thing for about 20 minutes a day. Mindfulness and morning pages go hand in hand.  Mindfulness invites us to pay attention to the “right now.”  The morning pages invites me to do the same…stay in the moment, sit down, write with no distractions.  The act of paying attention to the present, disables us to worry about the future or mourn the past.  The present invites us to heal and connect to ourselves in the moment.  Finding a way to connect with my creative self, through the act of morning pages, is both a healing and mindfulness practice.

If you want to try this form of mindfulness, feel free!  Perhaps find Julia Cameron’s book and read more about the guidelines she offers about the morning pages and how to honor this practice.  Observe what happens, if anything at all, when you invite this practice into your life.  Pay attention and notice how this practice may serve as a way to connect to yourself and others.  

 

Cameron, J. (1992).  The artist’s way:  A spiritual path to higher creativity.  Penguin Putnam       Inc.:  New York. 

The practice of tarot: An unexpected tool to grow intuition and develop self-regulation

Knowing what one needs and how one feels is not predetermined and does not happen in isolation.  D.W. Winnicott, a pediatrician and psychanalyst, believed the caregiver, if attuned to the child’s physical and emotional needs, provides a holding environment for the child to experience the feeling of becoming real.  Ideally, this happens in the relationship between a child and primary caregiver, but the relationship between a therapist and client can also serve as a source of consistency, predictability, and comfort, facilitating the feeling of becoming real.  With the help of the caregiver or a therapist, an individual eventually learns to regulate their emotional states and tolerate feeling what they feel, and knowing what they know (van der kolk, 2014, p. 115).   

When we are unable to feel what we feel or know what we know, we become vulnerable to “shutting down the direct feedback from [our] bodies, the seat of pleasure, purpose, and direction” (van der kolk, 2014, p. 116).  In other words, we shut down our intuition.  When this happens, our inner sensations are ignored.  When intense sensations are associated with safety and comfort we can learn to self-regulate and self-soothe.  When they are not, we fail to have a sense of agency over our bodies and mind.  

In the spirit of Winnicott’s work who emphasized the power of play in his work with children, other tools or anchors can be utilized to invite safety in moments of distress.  These tools serve to anchor us in the present moment and invites us to tap into our visceral sensations and ultimately the truth of who we are. This brings us to the use of tarot in one’s own practice in developing intuition and self-regulation.

Several years ago, a friend gifted me a deck of tarot cards.  I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know more about how I could use tarot as a source of guidance in my life.  A tarot deck consists of Major Arcana and Minor Arcana cards. The Major Arcana cards are emblematic pictures that represent archetypical themes influencing one’s life journey.  These archetypal themes are reminiscent of Carl Jung’s contributions who also worked with archetypal images and their role within the unconscious.  The Minor Arcana cards comprise four suits (Cups, Swords, Wands, and Pentacles) each of which has distinctive characteristics.  

At first, I understood the tarot to be THE guide, a power outside of myself, used to give me direction and clarity about a situation in my life.  As I began to utilize the cards more and study the purpose of tarot, I began to understand how this power resided within me and not the cards.  I became my own “midwife of the soul” a term used by Mary Greer (first coined by Sigmund Freud), an author and teacher of tarot.  This allowed me to utilize the tarot to gain access to my own intuition and bodily wisdom.  In times of distress, I would remind myself that I already knowwhat I need.  I would turn to the tarot to bring that knowing to light.  

Recently, I was introduced to Lindsay Mack’s work, the creator of Soul Tarot.  She interprets and utilizes the tarot as a tool for self-care, healing, and evolution. Her work inspired me to use tarot as an anchor for myself and others.  I have found that tarot has served as an adjunctive tool to assist in helping me know what I know, and feel what I feel.  It is an unconventional practice used to move into the present moment.  The tarot serves as a way to “visually and tangibly clarify another way of viewing our inner experiences, and allows us to be with them in a different way” (from Trauma and the Tarottaught and presented by Lindsay Mack).  

Using tarot has given me a creative way to understand my experiences.  I have learned to better tolerate the discomfort of not knowing the outcome of an event, and instead tap into my intuition using the cards to guide me. Pausing, breathing, and using the cards to support myself in a particular moment and remain calm and connected to my wisdom, has deepened my relationship with myself and has steadily become a practice of mindfulness, helping me to know what I know, and feel what I feel.

I invite you to consider the of use alternative forms of knowing in your practice to grow your intuition and tap into the truth of who you are.

References

van der Kolk, Bessel (2014).  The body keeps the score:  Brain, mind, and body in the                 healing of trauma.  New York: Penguin Books, ISBN: 978-0-14-3122774-1

 

The power of breath and movement

I have relied on my contemplative work rooted in the practice of breath and movement to ground myself moments of uncertainty and change. In order to engage in this work, I remind myself that my breath is connected to my body and most importantly, I do, in fact, have a body! I function in this world all too often from the neck up, heavily utilizing my intellect to engage in the everyday happenings of life.  Recognizing and noticing my body has invited more curiosity about how I feel in an effort to create a new way of knowing.  For me, this new way of knowing, deeply seated in the investigation of how my body feels, has led to a practice of activating my breath and body to create change.  Noticing that I can change the way I feel by paying closer attention to my breath and body has led me to understand the power of using both to effectively regulate emotional experiences, relying less on my tendency to intellectualize, and more on the experience of feeling as knowing.   

For me, the use of breath and body awareness is an invitation to cultivate my relationship with myself. When I separate from myself, I am unaware of my breath, my body, or the dignity of the present moment.  Inviting myself back to my breath in times of arousal or discomfort has heightened my awareness of its power.  The breath is a gateway to the nervous system.  Using my breath, gives me access to regulating my responses to arousal and discomfort.  When I am able to regulate these responses, I feel safe in my body, and from this safety, I am able to access a more curious, creative stance toward the happenings of every day life.

Being present in my body and being aware of my breath can occur anytime throughout the day.  First, I notice my body and breath in small doses. I am curious and investigate the sensations that arise in me during certain times of the day.  As I begin to notice these sensations, I am invited to make a choice to breath.  I take five breaths, inhaling and exhaling through my nose or mouth.  I notice my breath for these brief moments.  Or, I may move my body in a new way. I may consciously shift my body as a practice of noticing and discovery. Does this movement change the quality of my thoughts or the way I feel in my body?   I stay curious as best as I can without inviting judgement or shame.  I have found this investigative process has enhanced my capacity to regulate my emotional experiences.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is creative healing?

In November of 2018, I was certified in the I AM Yoga Nidra method offered by the Amrit Yoga Institute (https://amrityoga.org/yoga-nidra/). For two weekends from Thursday through Sunday, I was immersed in the experience of learning about and practicing Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra invites the body into a deep state of relaxation using a series of breath, body, and awareness exercises which moves the practitioner from a state of doing to a state of non-doing. Part of the process of engaging in Yoga Nidra includes the use of an intention to guide this sleep-based meditation. During the training, my teacher, Kamini Desai, led me in a practice of setting a primary intention which served as my personal North Star, a guiding light of hope and inspiration. First, I was asked to explore what is not currently working in my life. Then I was prompted to think about the habit I engage with which supports negative thinking. Finally, I was asked to imagine what I would feel like if I no longer engaged in this thinking. I wrote: “I would make time and space for creative energy to flow, for something to spontaneously arise, to move into uncertainty with more openness, to make room for clarity, calm, and quiet. I want to quiet my mind, and deeply trust in the process of my life.”

It was during this contemplative exercise I discovered my intention: I hold space for creative healing.

This realization birthed the name of my practice and my hope to provide a space for those I work with to engage in creative healing.

Creating can be different for each and every one of us, but I believe we are always creating. We are a part of the life force—constantly changing and evolving. Creating is healing.

As a social worker, I believe in the creative power of developing relationships. It is within a therapeutic relationship where one may choose to take a slow, careful, steady dive into something unexplored, shadowy, or unknown. It is here, in this space of the unknown, where energy is alchemized. Within the context of a relationship, a reflection is offered. This reflection offered by the therapist, gently invites one to enter a place of re-discovery where one’s true nature may emerge without judgment or fear. This is good medicine. One moves into a state of becoming where healing is possible. This transition into a space of healing invites acceptance and self-love to roam freely.

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