Spontaneous art and writing offer a mirror reflection of your inner world, and it will help you to express, release, see, and heal emotional pain. Visit my online classroom HERE.
Spontaneous art and writing offer a mirror reflection of your inner world, and it will help you to express, release, see, and heal emotional pain. Visit my online classroom HERE.
Few of us have escaped experiencing trauma in our human life. I define trauma as a difficult life event that was too overwhelming to emotionally process when it happened. When we become emotionally overwhelmed, trauma is stored in our body, waiting for another time in the future to be digested, resolved and healed.
Exponential growth is possible after a traumatic event. Healing through trauma can forge us into amazing human beings - full of power, compassion, wisdom, and integrity - if we understand what strengths the trauma is inviting us to develop.
Free Video Conversation
I had the wonderful opportunity to talk about healing trauma with the expressive arts with Jennifer Cunningham in her Post-Traumatic Enlightenment Interview Series.
Join us for our conversation HERE!
~ Melody Beattie
Enrich the experience: Amplify your appreciation into a feeling of deep and intense gratitude. Hold this experience for 10-20 seconds to install it in your longterm memory.
Absorb the experience: Extend this intense feeling of gratitude. Sense the warmth of gratitude sinking into you and staying in your body and mind.
Link the positive and negative material: Staying strong and steady with your positive feelings, bring this "higher vibration" of appreciation into your negative mind states to soothe and heal old pain.
Repeat the HEAL process as often as possible during the day.
In order to install positive feelings in the body and mind, it is helpful to paint your gratitude while you are feeling it. In this way, you will have a visual imprint afterward to meditate upon. I enjoy creating intentional energy paintings to anchor and extend good feelings in my body. I have found that painting watercolor is a profound way to anchor gratitude into my consciousness.
Amplify gratitude as explained above in the HEAL process.
Spontaneously paint a watercolor painting to extend the feeling of gratitude in your body and mind.
Fun Fact: 90% of our body is made of water. See how thoughts of gratitude create beautiful crystalline structures in your body HERE.
My passion as a psychotherapist and expressive arts educator is to encourage people to love all parts of themselves - especially the places inside that have felt ignored, rejected or ridiculed in the past. In my own wellness journey, I have developed many creative processes that encourage emotional healing though honest self-expression.
Expressive art is honest and spontaneous art. It is emotionally healing to express aspects of ourselves that might not get a lot of "air time" in our conscious awareness. Our socialized personality is afraid of honest self-expression. And, while it has helped us fit into our family, school and culture, it fears any kind of social disapproval.
In the process of socialization, we learn to hide essential aspects of ourselves from others. Yet, to heal the anxiety, sadness and anger of social and self-alienation, we need to give ourselves permission to express and love every aspect of who we are.
I have discovered many benefits in maintaining a personal daily expressive art practice such as decreased anxiety, the release of difficult emotions, and better self-understanding. I have also learned that sometimes we have to "trick" ourselves into creating spontaneously because we might be in the habit of following the rules, fitting in and "making nice."
Here are some fun ways to get started with a spontaneous art practice.
7 Spontaneous Art Exercises
1. Image and a Word: Choose one image and one word from a magazine and glue them onto a piece of paper or in your journal. Ask yourself, "How does this word and image reflect how I am feeling right now?"
2. Found Poetry: Tear out a page from an old book and circle words and sentences that activate you emotionally - positive or negative. Colour, doodle or paint around the words. Read your "found poem" out loud to give voice to a more subconscious part of yourself.
3. Scribble Drawing: Quickly draw a random scribble on your paper. Turn your scribble drawing around until your imagination sees a recognizable shape. Develop your shape with lines, patterns and colours. Give your scribble drawing a spontaneous name.
4. Magazine Face: Tear out a magazine page with a large face on it. Using felt pens or oil pastels, doodle, detail, and spontaneously draw within the face. Ask yourself, "How does this face reflect a part of my inner life?"
5. Healed Heart Collage: Draw or paint a heart while contemplatively asking yourself, "What would heal my heart today?" Spontaneously choose 1-5 words from an old book or magazine and glue them on your heart.
6. Draw a mandala: Trace a circle into your journal and draw detailed patterns from the inside-of-the-circle-out, or the outside-of-the-circle-in with a black pen. Concentrate on the repetitive patterns and give your anxious thoughts a rest.
7. Colour a mandala: Using coloured markers, meditatively colour the mandala you have spontaneously created. This a great way to gather focus and energy when you feel exhausted or scattered.
Explore Expressive Art for Self Therapy HERE.
Your deepest emotional wound becomes your greatest superpower - once healed. This prolific course bundle includes numerous written PDF lessons, plenty of visual examples, comprehensive psychological explanations of the emotional healing process, 8 art video demos and a PDF guidebook.
"Through spontaneity, we are re-formed into ourselves."
~ Viola Spolin
I had such a wonderful conversation with artist Karen Abend on her Sketchbook Revival Workshop series.
At the beginning of our video workshop, I share more about my two most recent sketchbook practices. And, to show my progression from emotional pain to joy - I also share some of my older drawing journals - when I was doing a lot of "shadow work."
For the final part of the session, I shared four expressive arts exercises that I use in my creative therapy sessions.
Four expressive arts exercises together:
The free class mentioned in the video is HERE.
All of us experience anxiety in varying degrees. Your anxiety might be a daily struggle or it might only come up when you’re facing a stressful situation. I specialize in facilitating a wide range of expressive arts modalities, and I offer insights into how to use the expressive arts for navigating anxiety. Below, I share my thoughts about the deeper meaning of anxiety, along with how creative self-expression can help. I also share four exercises you can try to calm your mind and body.
In my experience, anxiety is a mind-generated “cover up” for the deeper emotions that we are afraid to feel. Anxiety sits “on top” of difficult emotions that are stored in the subconscious. Anxiety arises from the inner conflict between the “social self” that we present to the world, and the other aspects of self that we have repressed and disowned.
Anxiety is most often a resistance to the aspects of ourselves that we fear expressing, whether they be dark or light. Self-rejection fuels anxiety. Self-love calms anxiety. When I work with someone who is struggling with a great deal of anxiety, we gently begin looking for the emotional need for acceptance that has not been met by other people.
Invariably, the root of all anxiety points to our genuine need for unconditional love for all our aspects of self. If we are experiencing anxiety, we can begin to search for the emotions, drives, desires, and aspects of self that feel out of alignment with who we are “expected” to be in our family and social groups.
Traveling back to learn the lessons hidden within our anxiety can be done through spontaneous art making and story writing. These two modalities balance both sides of the brain. The left side of the brain is logical, sequential, and it relies on the security of memory to feel safe. (The left brain likes to write memory based stories.) The right brain is the home to our unpredictable intuition, the subconscious storage of our emotions, and the rich symbolic imagistic language of our bright originality. (The right brain likes to create intuitive art.)
How Creating Expressive Art Helps With Anxiety
Creating intuitive/expressive art can help with anxiety in a variety of ways. First and foremost, expressive art can facilitate the release of emotions. If you are feeling heavy-laden with unprocessed emotions, I suggest engaging in a daily creative writing and/or art practice to facilitate what psychoanalyst Carl Jung called “symbol release.”
Uncensored self-expression is a benevolent helping process. Siphoning off the excess build-up of emotional energy through spontaneous writing and art making is a cathartic form of anxiety release unto itself. And, upon deeper reflection, the art and writing can reveal the limited patterns of thinking that create the difficult emotions in the first place.
The simple meditative act of making art can calm anxiety as well. Taking our mind off of our problems with an all-absorbing creative activity creates a quiet inner space so that new growth solutions can “pop up” from the subconscious mind. Giving ourselves a break from our anxious thoughts invites our innate originality to arise and inform our growth steps forward.
4 Simple Ways to Calm the Mind and Body Through Art Making
"Concentration is a fine antidote to anxiety." ~ Jack Nicklaus
1. Coloring for Calm – The popularity of adult coloring books speaks to the calming effect that concentrated focus brings. I have seen this calming phenomenon in my therapeutic art studio work. People who suffer from anxiety calm down profoundly when offered art projects that have intricate patterns to color or paint. Painting or coloring within detailed, pre-drawn designs can concentrate the mind’s focus so profoundly, anxieties are forgotten for a time.
2. Zen Doodling – Zen doodling is a popular method of relaxing the mind through doodling. It can be a good structure for any beginner who simply wants to relax and shut off the mind through the detailed drawing of repetitive patterns. If you prefer not to doodle from your imagination, there are many good books on the market that provide structured templates to doodle within.
3. Scribble Drawing – Scribble drawing is a tried and true spontaneous art exercise that works well as an introduction to spontaneous drawing. Scribble drawing was developed by art educator, Florence Cane. Her sister, art therapist Margaret Naumburg, implemented the scribble drawing when she started a progressive school for children in 1914 that encouraged spontaneous creative expression.
Method for Scribble Drawing:
a. Create a quick and spontaneous scribble, or as Cane described, “play with flowing continuous line” on your page – with your eyes open or closed.
b. Scribble until you feel finished, but avoid making your scribble too dense.
c. After you have finished your scribble, turn your drawing around to contemplate it from all angles.
d. Similar to seeing shapes in clouds and inkblots, allow your unconscious mind to pick an image out of the scribble.
e. Develop your found imagery with heavier lines. Embellish your imagery with details, doodles, patterns, and colors.
f. After you are finished, intuitively name your drawing.
4. Spontaneous Collage – Spontaneous collage involves choosing images “randomly” from a book or a magazine, and gluing them down in a non-rational way. Using the principles of projection, our inner emotionality chooses imagery that it resonates with. The pictures that stand out the most strongly will have an emotional charge that can be contemplated for deeper self-understanding.
Expressive Art Books
Because the body cannot tell the difference between a real image and an imagined image, it is important to create new symbols of strength after processing emotional pain. I love the transpersonal approach to art and healing in the books Art and Healing, Visual Journaling, and Drawing from the Heart all by Barbara Ganim.
To change the negative feelings in our emotional body, more unlimited truths often need to be introduced. We can unknowingly “recycle” our emotional pain by repeatedly expressing our limitations in our artwork. For many years I made this mistake in my own expressive art practice.
After the repeated emotional catharsis through my drawings, I began to feel discouraged by the consistent negative patterns that I saw in my art. Thinking I was releasing my pain, I would draw my same set of inner limitations over and over.
Ganim’s transformative approach to artmaking involves creating symbolic representations of wellness to meditate upon after emotional pain has been expressed. We can heal anxiety at its root by asking our body for inspired imagery to meditate upon to help us emotionally heal.
Healing Inner Conflict
Many people are afraid to “let loose” in the creative process for fear of what might be revealed. It is helpful to understand that imagery often expresses emotions that our mind might not want to accept. It might be comforting to know that our subconscious mind will generate images of shame and emotional pain first, and then images of forward-growth will be revealed after.
It is also helpful to know that we are presently feeling is arising to be healed. Avoiding the natural timing of our innate emotional healing process can create great anxiety. Because our emotional struggles are often expressed symbolically in imagery before they become verbal, sustaining a regular spontaneous art making practice can facilitate a precognitive emotional release that calms anxiety at the root.
The symbolic release of emotional pain through expressive art making invites something new to emerge. Emotional release calms the body and provides “space” for our deeper mind to generate new psychological symbols for growth. Meditation upon these positive symbols can lead to the tranquility of body, mind, and soul. There is a self-healing potential within all of us that can be accessed through the open-ended process of spontaneous art making.
I invite you to explore symbolic release of your emotions HERE.
Inspiration to Keep You Writing
"In order to retrieve your creativity, you need to find it." ~ Julia Cameron
As part of my emotional healing process, I wrote 3 pages longhand in my journal every morning for many years. I later began to explore other morning creative practices such as morning collages, morning mandalas, morning intuitive drawings, and morning art journaling.
Yet, it was the written journaling that helped me cognitively sort and understand the various voices inside my head. By sorting out all of the different sides of myself that were conflicted, I was able to calm myself, unravel my emotional pain, and become more inspired in my thinking.
What are Morning Pages?
In the words of Julia Cameron:
"Put simply, the morning pages are three pages of longhand writing; strictly stream of consciousness. Pages are meant to be the act of moving the hand across the page, and writing down whatever comes to mind - the stuff that eddies through our subconscious and muddies our days. Get it on the page."
Writer's Block and Emotional Overwhelm
When I first started writing morning page in my 30's there were periods of time when I could not write. When I was emotionally blocked, I would evade my writing for days, weeks, and even months. When I started to get into the deep stuff, the hard parts, the places inside that I did not want to admit to - I stopped writing.
Keeping in mind how challenging it is to write when in emotional pain, I have designed a 3 part journal course - 90 days in total - to support you through the initial, intermediate, and advanced stages of writing through the "hard stuff."
As Julia Cameron shares:
"When people ask, "Why do we write morning pages?" I joke, "To get to the other side." Morning pages get us to the other side: the other side of our fear, or our negativity, of our moods." Above all, they get us beyond our Censor. Beyond the reach of the Creator's babble we find our own quiet center, the place where we hear the still, small voice that is at once our Creator's and our own."
Painful emotions indicate disowned, unseen parts of ourselves.
Cut-off aspects of self can be witnessed and brought back to loving awareness through the process of intuitive collage.
I have been going through some deep shamanic changes in my life recently.
With much emotional intensity being activated by the circumstances of my life, I have created over 100 digital collages in the past two months!
A new level of strength has emerged through my process of visual self-honesty.
We heal our painful emotions by expressing all parts of ourselves fully and openly.
Learn how to create a simple digital collage HERE.
Learn how to create intuitive paper collages HERE.
View a slideshow of my recent collages HERE.
Create digital or paper collages as a way to emotionally process your inner life in my 30-day intuitive collage challenge HERE.
Come Play with Me!
"The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct."
~ Carl Jung
I am posting a series of 30 "purely intuitive" digital collages on Instagram HERE.
Choice 1: Follow the 30 Collage Challenge Prompts. Name your collage for social media according to the day and theme.
Day 1 - Map
Choice 2: Purely Intuitive. If you want to be utterly spontaneous with your digital or paper collages - name and tag:
Day 1 - (Your Collage Title)
After launching my new intuitive collage challenge two weeks ago - the online app that I used for my digital collages was missing in action a day later! Gone!
The good news is - the app is back now! I am having fun playing around with Freemix when I get a chance. I find spontaneous collage to so emotionally revealing and healing. I have been integrating aspects of my "mother-self" and my "teen-self" and my "sexual-self" through digital collage.
Some words to the wise...When a website's URL has not been updated to https it shows up as "not secure" on Chrome. Use the website at your own discretion. Freemix does not require any passwords or financial information to use so it seems ok to play around on.
Freemix is a bit awkward in places, but it is the easiest free collage app I have found so far. There are some "workarounds" needed for certain functions. For example, the download button does not work for me, so I download my digital collages under the share button.
The downloads are not high resolution - so this is mainly an emotional processing and "art-play" tool for me. My hope is that owners update it, as there is not anything comparable that I have found online for collage lovers.
A quick way to create a collage on FREEMIX
1. Go to http://www.freemix.com/
2. Create a profile.
3. Click on to the "Create" button at the top and your blank background will appear.
4. Click on the "Image Library" button on the right.
5. Click on "Background" on the top and choose a background. Resize as needed. If you are going to upload on Instagram, you might want to create a square background. Tag #30daycollagechallenge on Instagram.
6. After you have chosen a background. Switch to the "Cutouts" option at the top of your collage background. Add all of your collage elements until you are finished.
7. I like to leave the setting on "Random" on the sidebar at all times, as I love the mystery of creating an intuitive collage from what the program generates for me.
8. Choose and arrange 5-10 "Cutouts" to create a collage on your background. Your collages will save automatically on your profile. Or, collage all your imagery on a white background and choose your background at the very end.
Collaging Without Magazines
So many people ask me about ways to collage without magazines as they are getting harder to find. I tried digital collage and I am hooked. So spontaneous! So fun! So intuitive! So easy!
The collages I created for this free prompt series were made digitally on http://www.freemix.com/
Will you join me for 30 days of intuitive collage? Join the free prompt series HERE.
I have fallen in love with digital collage! People often write me to say that it is getting more difficult to find magazines for intuitive collage, so I decided to try digital collage. Digital collage solves the problem of searching for suitable imagery, as it is endlessly computer generated! (Note: The digital collage app I used is called Freemix.)
I love collage - both paper and digital - as an expressive art form. Intuitive collage reaches into the inner places that we do not have words for yet - to help us see our emerging "growth edge" in visual form.
“Intuition is a sense of knowing how to act spontaneously, without needing to know why.” ~ Sylvia Clare
Free 30 Day Collage Challenge
I have created a free 30-day challenge for you in the Expressive Art Workshops classroom. If you want to post your collages on Facebook each day for 30 days, you can also join the FB group for the challenge.
Collage is spontaneous and magical! Collage is like an exercise program for your intuition! Join me in this fun challenge HERE!
"Sketching is like dancing. You can turn your head off and just sort of dissolve into the now."
~ Molly Crabapple
I am always developing new intuitive art processes for myself in order to keep myself creating. Presently, I am in the midst of a very long mandala practice. At Mandala #200 or so I became bored with my creative process of intuitively drawing with pen and colored markers.
I knew I had to dig deeper to create mystery and magic in my process again. I talk about my past and present sketchbook practices on Karen Abend's "Sketchbook Revival." Please join me today for my online expressive art workshop HERE!
Here is my latest intuitive mandala practice:
I have created a 5-part mandala course detailing five other intuitive mandala processes I have developed. I invite you to explore intuitive mandala making HERE.
Creative Fun! Join Us!
I recently had so much fun facilitating the expressive arts online with my lovely creative friend Karen Abend!
Join us for the free online art workshop called Sketchbook Revival HERE.
Setting Up a Creative Practice
Over the past 30+ years, I have filled up a lot of sketchbooks! I especially love spontaneous creative practices because they provide a window into understanding my less consciously expressed parts of self.
Showing up daily to authentically express ourselves is an act of self-love, yet it can feel surprisingly challenging to maintain a daily creative practice. I have some little tricks to help me create every day.
Exploring a Daily Expressive Arts Practice
“When you want to arrive at your goal more than you want to be doing what you are doing, you become stressed.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
1. Focus on the Process. Creative practice quiets the anxiety of goal mentality. Invite all of your energy to fully move into your creative process until your mind grows quiet. Completely immerse yourself in your practice, and give up your desire for an end-product.
2. Keep your daily practice short. There are many ways to create a daily "doable" creative practice. One way is to set a short daily time allotment for your practice. Right now, for example, I am making mandalas as my creative practice, and they are very detailed. I rarely finish one mandala in a session. I work on one mandala for just 15-30 minutes at a time.
3. Create a soothing ritual. The simplest of rituals tell our nervous system that we are moving into an intentional place of our own choosing. I work in my sketchbook in the mornings for about 15-30 minutes while I drink a cup of tea. When I was working in healthcare, I used to get up very early for my creative practice and light a candle to set a sacred tone.
4. Set an intention for your daily practice. I am "deconstructing" a lifelong habit of worry, so my intention for my daily mandala meditation practice is to "cultivate calm." Setting the daily intention to calm my mind and body while I draw and color has been very healing for me.
5. Explore a theme or structure. The structure of my current expressive arts practice is simply to create anything within a circle using any art medium. Usually, I aim to explore one theme or structure until one sketchbook is complete. This is the longest creative practice I have ever done! At the moment, I am working on my 6th mandala sketchbook! (You can view my Intuitive Mandala Gallery HERE.)
6. Set a number. I have decided to create 365 mandalas, and I am putting no pressure on myself to complete them by a set date. Creating 365 mandalas has been super challenging for me. With such a long creative practice, I sometimes get bored with my mandala-making process. I regularly have to dig deeper into my methods and materials in order to become creatively engaged again.
7. Choose an art material to explore. Sometimes, I love to see what I can create by dedicating myself to exploring a particular art material like pastels, different kinds of pens or watercolor paint. I might aim to finish an entire sketchbook of abstract watercolor paintings, for example.
8. Choose an emotional issue to work through. When I was struggling to earn a living and to get above water financially, I dedicated many sketchbooks to frenzied ballpoint pen drawings that explored my fears about money.
Join us in our Creative Conversation HERE.
Learn How to Create Intuitive Mandalas
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
~ C.G. Jung
It is not easy to express all of who we are - especially if aspects of ourselves vary from the status quo. When we express all of who we authentically are, we risk not being liked by friends, family, religion, culture and our society.
A while back, I had a lovely conversation with spiritual life coach, Christina Sharp.
Christina grew up as a "good girl," always trying to do the right thing. Her life journey took her into the Christian church, and into what she calls "Right Thing Syndrome."
Self-Support and Self-Mirroring
In our chat, I shared my reflections on how I have used expressive art as a form "self-mirroring" to support myself on my journey to authentic self-expression.
Believe in Something Bigger
When we do not have human support to express our most authentic selves, we can ask for spiritual support. In my personal art visioning processes, I have seen that we have legions of spiritual support on the "other side." We only need to humble ourselves enough to ask for it!
Watch our conversation here:
“Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
Releasing Old Emotional Pain
We all have old emotional pain living inside of us. Whenever we cannot fully process a difficult life experience it leaves a painful energy imprint in our body.
Over time, these pain imprints become more heavily accumulated. Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle calls this accumulation the "pain-body.
The emotional pain-body remains dormant for periods of time. When the pain-body becomes triggered or activated, we see life "darkly" through the lens of old, unhealed emotional pain. People, situations, and memories become distorted when viewed through the eyes of our pain-body.
Negative Thoughts Keep the Pain Body Intact
Our pain-body feeds on negative thoughts of blame, victimization and/or self-recrimination. The urge to blame others for our emotional pain is intense when our pain-body is activated.
Our pain-body loves to create fights, especially with family or those closest to us. Because the accumulation of negative emotions in our body is exceedingly uncomfortable, the urge to project our pain out onto others can feel extreme.
Yet, instead of believing our vengeful and victimized thoughts, we can compassionately witness our emotional pain for what it actually is - unwitnessed emotional energy from the past that is trying to leave our body for good.
Compassionately Witnessing Your Pain-Body
1. Catch your arising pain-body at its inception: Catch your pain-body the moment it awakens from its dormant stage. Watch for any sign of unhappiness in yourself - in any form. Pain-body activation can take the form of irritation, impatience, a dark or somber mood, anger, rage, depression, a desire to hurt yourself or others, and a need to create drama in your relationships.
2. Observe your pain-body without thinking: Become very alert as your pain-body activates. Observe your compulsion to ruminate on your emotional pain. Also, observe your resistance to feeling your emotional pain. Do not look for an outside cause for your pain. Notice the urge to get the emotional pain out of your body by blaming others for how you feel.
We can mistakenly become addicted to dramatizing our emotional pain as "out there." Observe your attachment to your emotional pain, and see how it wants to gather evidence for why it exists. Observe the peculiar pleasure you derive from being unhappy. Continued emotional suffering becomes its own living entity (called the pain body). Left unchecked, our pain body can gather speed and destroy our lives - over time.
3. Cultivate laser loving attention to your pain-body: Focus laser loving attention upon the negative emotions inside of you. Know that this is your pain-body. Don't judge yourself or try to talk yourself out of feeling the painful emotions that are arising.
Don't let your painful emotions turn into negative stories about yourself, your life situation or other people. Stay present to the old emotional pain that needs to move out of stagnation. Don't lash out at others in an attempt to dispel your pain. Let the energy of your emotions move through your body even as they are painful. Hold strong presence, and witness your emotional pain until it is gone.
My Practices for Healing my Pain-Body
I like focusing to honor what is arising from the edge of my unconscious for emotional healing each day.
I also create expressive art to discharge emotional energy from my body.
Interview on Healing Trauma
I am speaking in the Post Trauma Enlightenment Summit today! Please join me HERE.
Fear of Life Transitions
I have recently been chatting with a dear friend about the fear that comes up during life transitions. Transitions can bring up such incredible anxiety. A few years ago, I came out of ten years of full-time work exhausted, overweight, and still running on overdrive in my nervous system.
As I transitioned to full-time private practice from my full-time job in healthcare, I had trouble calming my nervous system down. I was used to tightly scheduling every minute of my day. I had a great conversation about my challenges with slowing down after years of working so hard with my friend Egypt HERE.
To train the nervous system to calm down, we all need to choose a creative/spiritual practice to recondition ourselves into deeper love, calm and faith. I started a calming mandala practice after I finished working full-time in healthcare.
I still attend to my mandala practice about 15-30 minutes a day. At this rate, it will likely take me several years to reach my goal of 365! In the interest cultivating calm, I am in no hurry!
Our nervous system runs on survival programming from the past, and when we move too fast we get anxious. When our biological-fear-system is running its programming, we can spin our wheels by working way too hard. This fear programming will run automatically until we interrupt and recondition it towards calm.
There is so much we can do to free ourselves from the grip of our fearful nervous system. The free Photo Therapy course mentioned in the interview is one way - and it can be found HERE. Also, see my article on Creating Mandalas for Anxiety Regulation.
Learn How to Create Intuitive Mandalas
I went on a work binge in January. I started two new writing projects. When I get going on my "passion projects" I find it hard to stop writing. Feeling inspired by my "day at the office," I went straight home to write all my insights about emotional healing down.
After a month of full days in my therapy space, skipping my weekly free-form dance classes, and writing all evening, my body was feeling mighty stiff and sore. I was getting out of balance.
Recently, I was preparing for an online writing interview series and one of the questions was, "What would you do if you did not write?" And, the surprising thought that came up was..."I would dance more!"
Then a funny thing happened! The next morning, when I was scheduled to record the interview, I ran into both of my beloved dance teachers right outside the door to my therapy office - at the same time!
One dance teacher was sitting in the corner window of the cafe waving at me, and I hugged my other dance teacher on the street! Needless to say, I have shown up to my dance practice faithfully every week since!
Join us in a Conversation about Expressive Writing
I love authentic creative practices, and a big part of my emotional healing has involved writing and telling my true story. I started out discovering my true story in my own private journals in my thirties, I moved on to gradually sharing authentically with the world at large through my online business.
Creative Practices to Support Emotional Healing
Heal Emotionally by Envisioning Your Best Self
As an emotion-focused therapist, I often like to invite people to heal stuck emotional patterns by envisioning a more inspiring future. Sometimes the best way to emotionally heal is to "live into" the highest possibilities for our lives.
Our future-self offers hints about how to live our best life. Even when our current circumstances are less than optimal, our future-self can "reach back" to help us heal.
We all have a nervous system driven "survival mind" that warns us about what might go wrong based on what hurt us in the past, And, we also have a "spiritual mind" that informs us of the highest potentials for our life. In my e-guide "Creative Abundance" I invite you to spend more time in your "higher mind" instead of your "survival mind."
I wrote this book during a time when I was struggling to believe in my own visions for my life. As a creative person, I had always imagined great things for myself, yet I was severely flagging in my confidence and was struggling with intense self-doubt. My creative imaginings had not yet shown up in my outer life and I was losing heart.
From Self-Doubt to Creative Confidence
This guidebook is for creators of all kinds - artists, creative coaches, therapists and facilitators who want to see their creative visions "made real" in the world. This e-book will teach you the universal principles of deliberate creation and it provides daily journal questions to support you to transform your self-doubt into creative confidence.
The 40 Abundance Principles for Artists are quoted from the E-Guide - Creative Abundance:
40 Abundance Principles:
1. Harmony - When I am in a state of emotional harmony, creative visions come for my abundance.
2. Truth - My body loves the truth. When I create in ways that align with my soul, I feel good.
3. Possibilities - Because I do not want to create feelings of lack, I must love what currently is with all of my heart.
4. Assertion - Because creation in the world requires assertion, I need to learn how to become stronger than my fear.
5. Relaxation - The more that I can relax as I contemplate my creative visions, the faster they will come into reality.
6. Giving - The Universal Mind is constantly inspiring me to give to its higher plan.
7. Aspirations - When I call love, warmth, and enthusiasm into my creative aspirations, they become filled with vital energy.
8. Stillness - Overwork interferes with the flow of stillness that I need to create abundance.
9. Awareness - Recognizing the creative power of my thoughts, I can catch my doubt early and do not allow it to create my reality.
10. Essence - I have both a human inheritance, which programs my biology with limitations, and a Divine Inheritance, which is my soul's unlimited design.
11. Thought - I draw great pleasure from my creative visions, even if they have not manifested yet.
12. Endurance - It takes endurance to hold my creative visions inside for long periods of time, especially when my current reality is vastly different.
13. Certainty - I wait with patient certainty for the outer world to express the conditions that I have created within.
14. Imagination - Imagination is my creative workshop, and I must always take inspired action on my ideas.
15. Body - Because my mind is creative, it will create exactly what I believe on the "canvas" of my body.
16. Self-Responsibility - When I see the lessons in my disturbing experiences, inspiration will "reach down" to support me to grow.
17. Nature - Because I am part of nature, I have the ability to create abundance.
18. Passion - Passionately imagining having what I want saves me a great deal of external work.
19. Love - I lovingly spend time with my creative visions, so that they can come into material form.
2o. Concentration - In order to prepare my mind for creative insight, I need to practice my concentration skills.
21. Alignment - When I uplift my consciousness, the outer conditions of my life align with my new, higher ways of thinking.
22. Neutrality - When I withdraw my attention away from what I don't like, negative conditions gradually fade away.
23. Circumstances - My higher thoughts must remain steady in order to create positive circumstances.
24. Problems - No negative life situation will reach me unless it is necessary for my growth.
25. Words -If I want my creative vision to be bright and beautiful, I must take care to use the exact words needed to manifest it.
26. Principles - My dedication to higher spiritual principles displaces my limited beliefs.
27. Appreciation - When I appreciate my life, I notice creative opportunities that were not visible before.
28. Destiny - My power to create new thoughts changes my conditioned fate into my soul's destiny.
29. Visualization - When my inner images are clear, I bring them closer to reality.
30. Insight - When I desire to obtain higher insight, anything I want to know will be revealed.
31. Intuition - I need to follow my intuition step-by-step, even if it does not seem to make rational sense.
32. Heart - When I touch deeply into the heart of what I want to create, I will meet the spiritual essence of my creation.
33. Compensation - The Law of Divine Compensation states that I will be precisely compensated for what I give.
34. Affluence - Affluence within is the secret to the attraction of affluence without.
35. Power - When my thoughts are consistently powerful, constructive, and positive, I feel healthy, inspired and abundant.
36. Wholeness - Inspiration comes from joining my individual creativity to the wholeness of life.
37. Habit - As I practice the habit of inspired thinking, what I envision will eventually manifest.
38. Healing - Every thought is a seed that sinks into my body and forms a tendency.
39. Deserving - When I create something beautiful for myself and others, I deserve to prosper from it.
40. Daring - I dare to believe in my creative visions as an already accomplished fact.
A Conversation About Creative Abundance
It can take a long time to live into our higher creative visions and it is easy to get discouraged. I loved conversing with Creative Lifestyle Expert - Sarah Marie Thompson about how we can keep our creative visions alive in the midst of limited life circumstances. (Note: The course mentioned at the end of the conversation is no longer being offered for free. I welcome you to visit the course HERE.)
Intuitive Giving - Feeling Good vs. Thinking "Should"
Daily, I receive many requests for my time and energy. This is why the practice of intuitive giving has become such a profound spiritual practice for me. I listen within each day, to sense where I should give my time and energy, and where I should not. A key question to ask in the intuitive giving process is, "Does it feel good to give to this person, project or event?"
Thinking we "should" give is an outer pressure based on the expectations of others. Yet, it is possible, and even easy to "over-give" in ways that hinders another's growth. It is important to note that we are not meant to mitigate another's life lessons through our giving. Sometimes saying "no" is the greatest gift for another's spiritual evolution. Sometimes saying "no" is an act of love.
Intuitively listening to where we are called to give is a beautiful and illogical dance. Intuitive giving questions all of the human requirements that dictate how we "should" give, and invites a new process of spiritually-informed giving that edifies, illuminates, and participates in the healing precision of the larger Whole.
There is a web of larger healing that we all can partake. Participating in the mysterious universal web of giving amplifies inner gratitude, which for me is akin to joy. Inner gratitude is the profound joy we feel when we play our intuitive part in the Universal "healing web" without needing a reward. To enjoy inner gratitude, we can meditate upon all the times when it has felt profoundly good to give our gifts to life.
A Personal Study of Emotional Healing
The writing of A Course in Creating Miracles was a 5 year personal writing process that brought me much spiritual edification during a time when I was struggling with many heavy emotions.
Being non-religious, I needed an alternative spiritual text to turn to when I was struggling. I had been contemplating the daily lessons in ACIM for several years, but was craving a more feminine, emotionally-focused kind of language.
Dissatisfied with dense masculine/religious language in ACIM, I found myself rewriting my daily ACIM lessons in my journal in a way that my intuitive brain could understand.After five years, this private journal process became my 365 day e-course.
While this 365 day long course does not include expressive art and writing like my other courses, I am personally devoted to slowly creating "intuitive mandala meditations" for all 365 lessons. My mandala practice is dedicated to developing emotional calm.
Below is a lesson that reflects my thoughts on intuitive giving and inner gratitude from my course called A Course in Creating Miracles.
Lesson 197: Inner Gratitude
"The only gratitude I need is my own."
The purpose of this lesson is to understand that you can feel gratitude for your own kind acts, without needing others to thank you for your kindness.
Meditation: For at least five minutes - ideally thirty minutes or more - focus on being grateful for all that you have given to others, without needing outer validation.
We may not realize how much we measure our giving by how gratefully people respond. We will often withdraw our love and affection if our gifts are not received with "external gratitude and lavish thanks."
The Course encourages us to understand that even when people do not recognize your gifts, on a deeper soul level, the person you are giving to is grateful. If they are not consciously grateful now, they may think of you with fondness in the future.
Know that as you give to another in a particular way, you offer the same kindness toward yourself. And, if you withdraw your gifts because of their lack of gratitude, you take those same gifts away from yourself.
It is helpful to remember all of the times that you withdrew your kindness because you were not getting enough notice for what you were giving, and imagine the practice of unconditionally extending your gifts without the need for outer validation.
Every hour, for one or two minutes, search you mind for events for when you were not noticed for your giving. Embrace the new truth that the only grateful feedback you need is your own.
Today, whenever you feel upset when someone is not grateful enough, repeat the idea, "The only gratitude I need is my own."
Yesterday, we learned that the attacks that we perceive from the outside world unconsciously originate within our own mind. The Course says, "It is impossible that you be hurt except by your own thoughts." Today's idea looks at the opposite of attack. Just as we feel every judgment that we send out, so do we also receive back every gift that we give.
It often does not occur to us to give without looking for a grateful response. We all have had the experience of extending love and kindness and being rejected, misunderstood or ignored. Yet, we can feel grateful for our giving because everything we give to another, we give to ourselves.
When we intuitively give without conditions, we learn that gratitude does not come from outside of us. The Course says, "It does not matter if another thinks our gifts are unworthy." We can be grateful for the opportunity to give. Our giving helps us to feel profoundly worthy of receiving good things.
And, all of our giving is received at some point. You may have had the experience of looking back on your life, realizing much later how much someone gave to you. In hindsight, we can suddenly feel awash with gratitude for the gifts we received, long after our connection with someone has ended.
Understanding how you were not emotionally developed enough to properly see and receive gifts in the past, will help you have compassion for other people who seem to reject your gifts now. It is helpful to remember that love always "lands" on a soul level, at some point in time.
You can view A Course in Creating Miracles HERE:
“Fear echoes your self-defined limitations, not your actual ones. To change your self-image, you must face what scares you.”
~ Vironika Tugaleva
I had the pleasure of chatting with Alison Palmer about teaching from the heart. Alison is an international heart-centered business and leadership coach for coaches, writers, healers and creatives, and we had such a good time chatting about teaching.
Here is what Alison and I shared in our Creative Conversation:
In our chat, I share a personal story about how I moved some deep fear in my own journey as a teacher of the expressive arts!
You can listen to our chat HERE.
The course I spoke about at the end of the interview is no longer free. You can purchase it HERE:
Every year, I maintain an expressive arts practice with the intention to heal something inside of myself. This past year, I have been taking small daily steps toward creating 365 mandalas, with the intention to deepen into more emotional calm.
This is the longest creative practice I have ever done, and it is taking a good while to complete! Working full-time for many years, I have learned that it does not have to take a long time to upkeep a daily creative practice.
I have created almost 250 mandalas so far, and I only spend about 15-30 minutes drawing, colouring and painting a day.
Weekend Collage Practice
Working as a therapist during the week, I lovingly delve into the underworlds of emotional pain. In my work, the balance of play is essential for balance.
On the weekends, I play around with spontaneous collage. My affirmative collage practice uplifts me. It involves creating with colours, patterns and encouraging words. And, it is so different than the spontaneous collage practices I have done in the past, which involved clearing a lot of emotional pain.
I have so enjoyed bringing my whole heart into creating teaching videos - combining sound, music, emotion, spontaneous thoughts and expressive art into one creative montage. It is my delight to invite you into my studio, and to chat with you as I create my weekend collages and daily mandalas!
In this video bundle, I share some of my most intimate creations, as well as 8 expressive art demo videos. Join me in my studio as I demonstrate how I create spontaneous collages, expressive poetry and intuitive mandalas for emotional healing!
You can view the Video Bundle HERE.
I read Julia Cameron's seminal book the "Artist's Way" over 20 years ago. She encouraged 3 pages of longhand, spontaneous writing first thing in the morning as a way to clear out negativity.
I dedicated myself to writing Morning Pages for ten years during my 30's when I was struggling with intense bouts of emotional pain. Writing daily for half an hour, just upon waking, solidified my devotion to listen to all aspects of myself.
Inviting the Negative to Speak
My morning pages journals were filled with negativity in the form of complaints, grief, anger, sadness, self-sabotage, disempowerment, frustration and more. Yet, after I was finished writing each morning, I felt clearer. I could see positive polarities that my negative thoughts had been obscuring.
You could think of Morning Pages as your daily negativity cleanse! Many of us rarely get beyond the negative self-talk that eddies around in our heads. We might have fleeting ideas about inspiring projects and larger life goals, and then easily get caught in distraction, doubt, and negative self-talk. Morning Pages give our negative thoughts a voice and a place, so they do not dominate our day.
Julia Cameron shares:
"Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages – they are not high art.
They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind – and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page...and then do three more pages tomorrow."
Writing From the Shadow
Written blurry-eyed, first thing in the morning, my Morning Pages journals were emotionally messy. Sunny and cheerful in my professional life, privately, I wrote darkly for many years. When my mind was still on the edge of sleep, in touch with what was buried in my unconscious mind, my daily writing process allowed forbidden topics to arise up from my shadow.
Some of us pressure ourselves to be positive all of the time. It can feel unproductive to complain day after day in your journal. You might think that this form of writing is a way of "practicing" negative emotions. However, I found a way to re-examine my negative Morning Pages writings in a way that invited affirmative change.
Contemplating Positive Change
After my entire Morning Pages journal was finished, I usually spend a weekend contemplating what I had written. I looked for repetitive themes and deeper meanings in my writing. I circled sentences and words that stood out as emotionally strong with different colored markers.
My "negative rants" helped me to become much more self-aware. Negative emotions always signal how we need to make new positive life choices. I always left 3-5 blank pages at the end of my journal so that I could gather my final insights. After I wrote a final summary about what I had learned, I knew exactly how I needed to change.
Julia Cameron offers a wonderful spoken description of Morning Pages HERE.
I offer 3 Morning Pages Journal Courses starting HERE: