Storms, Strength & Wisdom

New year and we have a new group! This is our second week and the theme of the class is: storms, strength and wisdom. In Toronto, we have had a series of ice storms that have caused electrical blackouts and icy conditions. Many living in the city, especially those with a disability have had to live through days without electricity. This means limited access or no access to elevators, hot water, assistive devices that depends on electricity. So our theme for the week starts with the storm – both the ice storm and personal, emotional, traumatic storms of our lives. I read the following message of resilience to our group:

“The earth has a heartbeat. In between each beat is silence. That silence is when the life force gathers strength for the next beat. You must learn to do the same. Use the silence to gather yourself. Life can give you strength. Life gives and life takes. As it is teaching you even now. Life takes our time and everyday is one day closer to the end of our journey on this. It takes our efforts our sweat, our best intentions, our noble ideas, our dreams and sacrifices. And often demands more. Then it gives us obstacles, surprises, disappointment, indifference, confusion, doubt and heartache. Yet life does give us much more than the obvious. If we can look back on the difficulties we have know, whether old or new, then we have moved past them at least in time. That we are looking back on a tough experience from the perspective of the present moment means we have survived it. The experience may have taken a toll, as difficulties do. But whatever our losses have been, we have survived. Survival is victory, because we know or we are reminded that is it possible. Survival is victory because life has given us something along with the difficulty.”

“The experience the difficulty has taught us or reminded us that we can be strong.” by Joseph Marshall III – Keep Going from Soundstrue

I would also like to add, that through hard times, we also gain wisdom that comes from the enduring the difficulties. This can open our hearts further so we surface with more love and compassion for others who have also endured this journey. I am proud to share art work from this theme.

Remember - Forward by Micky
Remember – Forward by Micky
The Beautiful Sunshine by Maria
The Beautiful Sunshine by Maria
Storm by Roxanne
Storm by Roxanne
Break Time by Stella
Break Time by Stella
Walking on the Earth by James
Walking on the Earth by James
Rebirth by Robert
Rebirth by Robert
Ancient by Dr. L. Longo
Ancient by Dr. L. Longo
The Five Directions by Amee Le
The Five Directions by Amee Le

Black & White

Sometimes we need the darkness to see the light. Through the storms and dark nights, the sun rises and a new day begins. Keep going – through the dark for it can make our light even brighter.

What a better way to illustrate this than by using black textured card stock and printing with white ink.

Here are a few gratitude expressions from the Artists:

Today I am really thankful for you guys. For doing this group with me. You guys teach me something new every time I do this and it makes me very happy. So I want to thank each and every one of you for showing up.” Amee Le

I am thankful for being able to be here. Thankful for my parents. Thankful for all the people in this room and this building.” MSW

Thanks for the work did today.” Orlando

I am grateful for a lot of things. The time that we have to work on art, and the openness that you guys share while we are here.” Amanda Muise

I am thankful for the different activities we do here. Especially the meditation, I find it’s a good way to relax so when I leave and go home because I would like to carry it on, when I am lying in my bed, when it’s dark and it’s quiet and it helps me to fall asleep.” Paul

I am thankful for my friends here. I am thankful for CHIRS. I am very thankful that I went to the kitchen today for the first time – I prepared spaghetti. I am thankful for so many things, words can’t explain – thank you!” Roxanne

I am thankful that I’ll be getting a ride half way so that I don’t have to walk in the dark. Also for people who have taught me different techniques and things that I need for everyday life.” Micky

I am most thankful for never being alone, because of CHIRS and because of these kind of activities, I get to experience joy and share it with other people.” Chris

One Fish, Two Fish by Orlando
One Fish, Two Fish by Orlando
Bugs Bunny or a Fox? by Micky
Bugs Bunny or a Fox? by Micky
Three Wishes by Chris
Three Wishes by Chris
Clover by MSW
Clover by MSW
Love by Roxanne
Love by Roxanne

Fall Art!

October is here and there is a new group of Artists joining Mindful Art Workshop at Community Head Injury Resource Services of Toronto. Here are a few gratitude expressions from the Artists:

I am thankful for the past two hours because I forgot all about my tooth ache” RW

I am thankful for a carving that is supposed to be a dog that turned into a raptor” WSM

I am thankful for a space to be creative” Micky

My mindfulness creation by RW
My mindfulness creation by RW
Toronto Raptor by WSM
Toronto Raptor by WSM
Fall is Here by Chris
Fall is Here by Chris
Snoop Dog by Micky
Snoop Dog by Micky
Motherhood by Amanda Muise
Motherhood by Amanda Muise

 

Finding Inspiration! Giving to Others

There was a sense of excitement during the first group, combined with nervous anticipation. Participants were eager to get started and were unsure of what to expect. The class started with a deep breathing exercise so that all participants could come together to feel grounded and present. Then I spoke to the class about finding inspiration by giving to ourselves.

This can be an unusual topic, as so often we are giving to others; taking care of ourselves is a foreign concept; it’s like we are speaking an unfamiliar language. As professionals, caregivers, family members, friends, we are socialized to give. We are kind to others and we often feel like our hearts are limitless in the amount of care we give to the people we love.

Then, if we are mindful and pause, we can remind ourselves that, although our hearts are deep and open, our bodies have limits; respecting these limits means finding ways to give back to ourselves,  giving ourselves permission to take care of our bodies, our minds, and our emotions, taking care of the parts of us that connect to meaning, and being kind to ourselves.

This is, we want to keep being kind and giving to others and continue giving; at the same time, we stay mindful and find ways to replenish ourselves. This can be viewed as a cycle of giving so that we are not depleted at the end of the day. We remind ourselves that as we become depleted, we can give less to others. When we give to ourselves, we are in a sense giving to others as well.

But what if this feels selfish”, says a tiny voice? Or, “I don’t know how to do this”, says a louder voice.

Pause and step back; be aware, be mindful without judgment. Hear these thoughts talking to us, give them space to talk, and listen to their messages; this is acceptance. Then what? We may be surprised what comes next. With practice, the thoughts become quieter and the layers peel away as we become more open to ourselves. When we do this, we may be surprised of what we are capable and how deep our hearts truly are.

Through this exercise and by accepting the mindful seed (Judgment + Acceptance = Surprise) the participants in the workshop were able to create these beautiful eraser carvings [click here].

Workshop Participant's Eraser Carving printed on Recycled Shipping Tags
Workshop Participant’s Eraser Carving printed on Recycled Shipping Tags
Workshop participant's eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant’s eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant's eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant’s eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant's eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant’s eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags

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.