Blockage + Vulnerability = Freedom

Blockage, vulnerability, freedom gif

Have you ever felt so closed up that it became normal? Do you remember a time when you felt free? Have you asked yourself – “Why am I so guarded?”

When it comes to art and expressing ourselves there is a conscious effort to connect with our heart and that takes courage to be vulnerable. The word vulnerable can have a negative edge to it. I have heard of people with an acquired brain injury being referred to as the vulnerable population.

There is truth in this, as many of the people who come to share their time with me are vulnerable, even tender, but with encouragement they are intensely brave to take on the task of looking at their barriers their blockage and express what is inside.

The barriers come to try and protect us because our past histories are occupied with pain, hurt, and disappointment and this can lead to the feeling of blockage, being closed up and guarded. To expand on the perception of blockage and vulnerability I’ve tried to explain this as black and white thoughts. We have black thoughts and we have white thoughts. During the Mindful Art Workshop, we meditate on the black and white perspectives and the participants created these eraser carvings (click here) to illustrate the two sides of the same coin.

We then printed the stamps on a black canvas, and it magnified the white art. Perhaps we need the barriers and the ‘black thoughts to have a canvas where our vulnerability and white thoughts can shine. When we show ourselves love and kindness we accept our blockage and we accept our vulnerability; for without one the other would not glow so brightly.

Then we find ourselves starting to open up and the barriers perhaps are lowered slightly. Then perhaps our hearts beat a bit more mighty as we gather the courage to show ourselves love and kindness for all the parts, bit and pieces of ourselves. Then we are that much closer to freedom.

Prints from this workshop:

Black & White Print by Chris
Black & White Print by Chris
SONY DSC
Black & White Print by Workshop Participant
SONY DSC
Art Work by Workshop Participant

Grief + Gratitude = Inspiration

Finding meaning when we have lost a beloved.

I would like to share with you the stories of two clients; each had lost a beloved person in their life. One gentleman spoke of his worries about his grandmother being very ill and having to be hospitalized. He described this grandmother as having been like a second mother to him.  He sat in my office, overcome with concern that she may not live through this battle. Some time later, he arrived to tell me that his grandmother had died. I sat with him, trying to make a space where he felt safe to cry.  We were able to practice deep breathing and gentle seated yoga and he sat through two 10 minute meditations, taking a short break to cry and feel the pain from his grandmother’s passing. When he was ready, I wrote and showed him this message: Grief + Gratitude = Inspiration.

Mindful Seed: Grief + Gratitude = Inspiration
Mindful Seed: Grief + Gratitude = Inspiration

I explained that it is normal to feel pain when grieving, that the pain signifies that the person is important to you and has deeply touched your life; otherwise, you wouldn’t feel such strong emotions.

Grief can have negative connotations and can be labeled a negative emotion. We can take that Grief and add something positive and possibly uplifting – Gratitude. Think about all the wonderful memories and ways that this person changed your life and try to connect with a feeling of gratitude, for without this person, you would not be who you are today. Find ways to be thankful for her life. The way she lived her life has changed the way you have lived yours.

The second client spoke about the loss of his girlfriend, which brought forth in him memories of losing his father many years prior; he allowed himself to cry for both losses.

Let the loss of your beloved also be your inspiration. Take the grief, add gratitude, and create inspiration so that when you remember your beloved, you can experience a feeling of inspiration. Both of my clients asked me to write this equation down for them as reminders.

Each client walked away with a bit of lift in their steps and a slight smile, as if to say, “I’ve found new meaning for a very special person, someone who I will always keep close to my heart”.

Mindful Seed: Judgment + Acceptance = Surprise

Mindful Seed 1
Mindful Seed: Judgment + Acceptance = Surprise!

There is a part in each of us wanting, craving space to express. Yet through our life experiences, schooling, family, friends, we’ve been taught to value one thing more than another, that our work should be perfect, anything but perfection is not good enough, and should not be shared. These thoughts can hold us back, in fear of judgment, that what we create may fall short of expectations and we close off our creativity.

I’ve worked with clients who are creative, have amazing talents, and are very hesitant about showing their art to others, out of fear and judgment. I certainly hear those same thoughts in my mind, the judgment, the criticisms, holding back from expressing because I need more time to prepare. I am hearing those exact thoughts as I sit and write these words.

Over this past year, I’ve become aware of all of the judgmental thoughts in my mind. I’ve also stepped back and looked at myself realistically – all the good parts and not so good parts and seeing things as ‘just is.’ Being mindful of my own thought processes and accepting them while showing them kindness has lead to a pleasant surprise: the judgmental thoughts began to lose their grip and kindness and acceptance of myself began.

My ongoing mindful meditation practice, and teaching and counseling clients through their own transformative process are the basis for the first mindful art workshop. Adapting mindful meditation principles for clients with a moderate to severe brain injury means breaking the ideas down into very small, and manageable bits of information and teaching each part slowly.

During the first day of the workshop, we talked briefly about the idea of mindfulness and to be aware of our own judgment. Group members were reminded to be aware of the judgmental thoughts, and to take those thoughts and combine them with the idea of acceptance.

Acceptance means being kind to ourselves. To know that we all have those thoughts and to give ourselves the kindness that we show to others, and accept that voice that judges. To allow room for the voice to exist, while being able to watch and act on the thoughts that are positive that will allow us to change.

Doing so we can begin to see, or be mindful of, both judgment and acceptance to find inspiration from within to express through art. Another concept to shake our own inner judgment is: surprise. Often we expect our art, our creation to turn out a certain way. When they don’t, we are disappointed and discouraged and believe that we’ve failed. Participants were reminded to accept whatever they create at the end of the class, and relish in the surprise of their creative art. To let go of expectations, to find surprise and joy in the results, no matter what they may be.