Monday, April 15, 2013

A Stout, Inspired Heart

Earlier this month I wrote about CSU Monterey Bay’s nursing students thoughtfully inviting me to return and participate with them in one of their healing art classes.  I shared the mini collage cards I created and brought to the students, but had not yet shared the actual healing art piece I created during the class.  What surprised me was that although it was an “express” version of healing art, a 2-hour class squeezing in set-up, a visualization exercise, the actual art process and clean-up (compared with the 6-hour monthly retreat I regularly attend at CHOMP), there was still much insight to gain from the experience and the resulting art.  The practice of healing art continues to prove its powerful, beneficial impact regardless of the amount of time devoted to creating a piece.      

After a guided visualization of us meeting our “future self,” we were free to experiment and create a piece with any medium(s.)  I experimented with the mixture of liquid watercolor and shaving cream for the first time, painting a simple background for my collage.  I quickly leafed through magazines, searching for colors from which to cut petals and form flowers and leaves.  One of the students kindly gave me a colorful page she found which I used for two of the flowers. 
An image of a hummingbird caught my eye which I felt compelled to add to my collage at home (after running out of time to finish during class, being somewhat slow in my process and accustomed to more time!)  As I was cutting out the hummingbird from its page, I noticed part of the original article describing its “stout heart.”  By extracting select words, I discovered an interesting message that related to my personal experience – "Stout heart, flexible to power down...until conditions approve."  I could relate both physically and emotionally.  Concern about my heart was what first prompted me to make an appointment with my doctor, the first step into my health detour one and a half years ago.  You see, my heart was taxed, working to pump the meager amount of red blood cells that were circulating through my body at that time.  (The lymphoma had caused fibrosis in my bone marrow which was inhibiting new cells from entering my bloodstream.)  Because, fortunately, I was fairly healthy aside from what was happening in my bone marrow, my body, including my strong ("stout!") heart, compensated amazingly well and kept me safe from additional problems.  My heart's strength is also fueled by love and positivity and hope, my navigation system to advance through the twists and turns of this journey and arrive at a stretch where conditions have indeed improved (and will improve even further after I finally complete the maintenance phase of my chemotherapy next month!) 
(On the back of my collage to remind me of the symbolism I discovered about the hummingbird.)

I had also brought home another page for its color, intending to add a few more leaves to the bottom of my collage, and while doing so, I noticed the words of an advertisement, and again, by extracting select words and assembling them on my collage, I discovered a second message - "Brilliant journey.  Inspired heart.  Share your stories."  Yes, despite my detour, its twists and turns, the uncertainty (we all feel, regardless of our situation!) of the path ahead, overcoming the roadblock of fear once my ally is no longer traveling with me, I believe life is a brilliant journey.  By each of us sharing stories of our parallel journeys, we can encourage and inspire one another, find companionship and comfort, form a community of "stout, inspired hearts."

Healing artwork and its messages and lessons result from a blend of creative energy, subconscious thought/inner wisdom and seemingly, a bit of serendipity.  It is in the expressing, contemplating and learning that healing takes place.  I find this process can extend for days or even weeks after I’ve finished a piece.  I’ll prop up the piece in a visible spot, study it and consider its meaning.  I’ve encountered a great deal of symbolism in my healing art journey - this hummingbird, the dragonfly, butterfly and penguin as examples.  I’ll often research their significance and discover how they relate to a situation, an emotion or a train of thought.  Each piece becomes a page in my “guidebook” on this healing journey, and as I am discovering, not only is it a journey of healing, but also of enlightenment and growth.

If you’ve been following my meanderings and musings here on Paper And Ponder, then you're probably familiar with my numerous posts on healing art and its pivotal role in accompanying me on my journey.  How about your own journey?  Have you encountered the therapeutic, healing qualities of art?  Have you utilized symbolism as an insightful tool?  I would love to hear about your experiences.