Mindfulness, also referred to as awareness, is the simple act of noticing thoughts, sensations, and feelings. Use of the expressive arts can broaden our capacity to be mindful by adding insight to our inquiry, which then results in the surfacing of additional wisdom. When this happens it’s as if we have exercised our unconscious.
“Art, as a way of knowing, offers a path back to direct participation in life.” – Pat Allen
The Soul’s Voice
Pat was right! Our ability to use artistic expression to conjure up the imagination leads to the fruit of our knowing, awakening mindfulness and our engagement in life. It is with this ability that we are able to play like school children in the park. It’s as natural to us as fetching a stick is to a dog, and must be exercised in order for us to grow and manifest our greater being. Using art as a way of knowing awakens our senses to design flower gardens, clean out garages, purge closets, and become the next cupcake champion. The process can be light and fresh, filling our consciousness with new inspirations, or it can support our drop into shadowy places, helping us examine what feeds our addictions, procrastinations, and stuck-in-the-mud places.
Creative expression informs our feelings, actions, and insights. I’ve noticed this effect as I work with clients. In one example, my client was asked to create a mask of her subpersonality. She noticed how bland it was and how that represented the feeling she was repressing. Another example was when a client drew the complexity of his three-headed face and wrestled with which one to display to the world. A great example of insight was when my client entered the session not knowing what to talk about. I handed her an array of image cards. Organically, she chose cards that led to her having one of the most insightful sessions to date. These are just a few examples of how our imagination is awakened and our mindfulness enhanced via creative expression.
Heeding the Call
The call (unconscious yearning) arises in what I refer to as inklings. Inklings are subtle clues to threads of our greater knowing. Springing from our bellies like bubbly from champagne flutes, these little gurglings of consciousness seek attention. I advise you to give them space. I’ve seen time and time again how important it is to listen to these subtle cues. With practice we can notice these inklings more and more, supporting a voice for our yearnings. With time and a bit of patience we can improve the skill of noticing what is bubbling to the surface.
One way in which we can pay attention more cleverly is by using the expressive arts. The arts support getting out of our heads and into the subtle sensations of the body where images, colors, and fantasies lie. By veering away from our usual way of linear processing, we tap new information. For instance, you may notice body sensations as you feel anxious. When this happens, you have the opportunity to check in with yourself and decide what that is about. You can grab your journal and scribe your thoughts onto paper. You can move with the energy and see how it shifts and changes. You might even give voice to it by letting out a primal scream. Perhaps you feel more inclined to draw its color or shape and give it a title. Whatever your chosen vehicle, you bring attention to it and allow it to breathe by giving it more space.
So I ask you, is the soul’s voice calling you? If your imagination hasn’t been exercised since the last full moon, it may be time to give it a nudge, dust it off, and let it breathe. Gather your pen, paintbrush, a scrap of paper, a glue stick, and a handful of magazines, and throw caution out the window. Listen to your daydreams, create a collage, and let your mind relish in discovery. Attend and feed to your garden and see what sprouts. Doing so will breathe new life into your self-disciplined ways of living, releasing vast new adventures in growth.
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Douglas Mitchell, MFTI, therapist in San Francisco, California
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